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AMEKO v. AGBO AND ANOTHER


  • New
  • 1961-12-01
  • HIGH COURT
  • GLR 747-749
  • Print

PREMPEH, J.


Summary

Local courts?-Jurisdiction in land cases?-Value of land stated in claim as G50 and in counterclaim as G500?-Whether plaintiff entitled to raise jurisdiction on appeal?-Courts Act 1960 (C.A. 9) s. 98

Headnotes

The plaintiff, suing in the local court for damages for trespass to land, gave the value of the land on his writ of summons as G50. The defendants denied the trespass, and counterclaimed for ownership of the land. They stated the value of the land as G500. The local court heard the case on the merits, dismissed the claim, and gave judgment for the defendants on their counterclaim. The plaintiff appealed, and argued that the local court had no jurisdiction to hear the suit, because the defendants had put the value of the land beyond G200, and the local court magistrate did not take steps to secure the consent of the parties to [p.748] have the case heard by him. This contention was based on section 98(2) of the Courts Act, 1960 (C.A. 9) which provided that "Where it appears that the subject-matter of a land cause exceeds G200 the [local] Court shall not exercise jurisdiction except with the consent of the parties".

Judgement

APPEAL from a decision of a local court in a land case.

One of the grounds of appeal taken by counsel for the appellant is that the local court magistrate failed to comply with the relevant section of the Courts Act, 19601, and that therefore the local court was not vested with jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the subject-matter in dispute, and I think that that ground must prevail.

The appellant's claim reads as follows:

"The plaintiff claims from the defendants jointly and severally the sum of G100 being damages for trespass into the plaintiff?'s land commonly called Tsiho at Tsito in the Awudome area of the Ho District to wit; the first defendant had authorised the second defendant to farm in the plaintiff?'s aforesaid land and upon this authority the second defendant began to farm groundnuts, etc. in the said land without the consent and permission of the plaintiff. The boundaries are as follows: on the east by Kpakpo's piece of land, on the west by Adza Wuiah's piece of land, on the south by Mr. Adaae's piece of land, and on the north by Kpakpo's piece of land, and it will approximately value G50".

The respondents' counterclaim also reads as follows:

"The defendants/counter-claimants claim against the plaintiff?'s claim is one hundred pounds (G100) being compensatory damages for making wrongful and false claim against the defendants with intent to deprive defendants of their right of ownership of the Tsinyanu land at Tsito Awudome?-to wit: that the defendants are the bona fide owners of the piece or parcel of Tsinyanu land of Tsito, which said land the defendants have been using for farming purposes. The said land is [p.749] bounded on the north by the property of Adza Wuiah, on the south by the property of Megbetor, on the east by the property of Kpakpo and on the west by the property of Salami, with valuation of G500 approximately".

By the amended counterclaim, the compensatory damages claimed were amended to read G1,000 instead of G100.

The civil jurisdiction of the local court is found in section 98 of the Courts Act, 1960. Section 98(1)(a) says: "The Civil jurisdiction of a Local Court shall be as follows: Suits (in this Act called 'Land causes') relating to the ownership, possession or occupation of land where the law applicable is customary law." And section 98(2) says: "Where it appears that the subject-matter of a land cause exceeds G200 the Court shall not exercise jurisdiction except with the consent of the parties."

The value of the subject-matter in this case was given by the appellant as approximately G50, and by the respondents as approximately G500, and there is nothing in the record of appeal to show that any question was put to request the consent of the parties to the case being heard by the local court, and/or that the parties consented to the local court's jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the matter with the claims as they stood.

The operative words of subsection (2) are: "Where it appears that the subject-matter of a land cause exceeds G200". I am of the opinion that the value of the property stated in the particulars of the counterclaim was sufficient to make it appear to the local court magistrate that the subject-matter brought before the court exceeded its jurisdiction, and that he could not try the issues joined until he had obtained the consent of both parties, which alone could bring the case within the court's jurisdiction. The point taken is one as to jurisdiction and can be raised at any stage of the proceedings: see Nana Kwame Asante v. Nana Kwame Tawia substituted by Chief Asafu Boakye II.2

It has been submitted on behalf of the respondents that since the appellant himself fixed the value of the land as G50 he must be deemed to have consented to the local court's jurisdiction, and that the fact that the respondents fixed the value of the subject-matter at G500 cannot avail him on the point taken by him. I am unable to accept that contention. I think that the test is this: if the odds of the merit of the case were against the respondents, would they under the very circumstances have been entitled to raise this point of the jurisdiction of the trial court. In my view, the answer is in the affirmative, and for that reason I do hold that the fact that the appellant fixed the value at G50 does not alter the position. I must therefore support the contention of the appellant, and I do hold that in the circumstances the trial court was not vested with jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the case.

Having so held, I do not think it necessary to make any decision on the other grounds of appeal. The appeal is accordingly allowed, and the judgment of the court below is set aside. In the circumstances I do not think that the appellant is entitled to costs in this court, nor in the trial court, and I so order.

Decision

<P>Appeal allowed.</P>

Plaintiff / Appellant

E. D. Kom

Defendant / Respondent

F. T. C. Amorin

Referals

Nana Kwame Asante v. Nana Kwame Tawia substituted by Chief Asafu Boakye II, Privy Council, February 15, 1944, unreported.

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