ALP Legal Alert

No Right of Appeal to Highest Court in Employment Matters: DFCU Bank Limited v Donna Kamuli, Civil Application No 29/2019

By ALP Advocate
on
December 9, 2020

Industrial Court has unlimited jurisdiction on remedies it can order. A hearing envisaged under the employment law is not a requirement to hold a 'mini-court' and can be through letter, email or face-to-face. Employers are not obligated to clear employees' salary loans.

No Right of Appeal to Highest Court in Employment Matters: DFCU Bank Limited v Donna Kamuli, Civil Application No 29/2019

Background

In its application by notice of motion, DFCU Bank Limited sought orders of the Supreme Court to strike out the notice of appeal by the Respondent in Civil Appeal No 1/2019. The grounds for the application stated, among others, that an appeal is a creature of statute and that there is no statutory provision that provides for a right of appeal against decisions of the Court of Appeal exercising its appellate jurisdiction over awards of the Industrial Court.

In its submissions, the Applicant relied on the case of Attorney General v Shah [1971] EA 50 and section 6 of the Judicature Act and further argued that the notice of appeal lodged by the Respondent does not fall within the two limbs of section 6of the Judicature Act.

The Respondent opposed the application arguing that the right of appeal from the decisions of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court is provided for under the general legislative framework right from the Constitution of Uganda and that there is no impediment in the applicable set of laws to deter an aggrieved person from seeking relief in the Supreme Court. The Respondent further argued the Industrial Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the High Court when handling employment matters and that as such a right of appeal lies as of right.

Ruling of the Supreme Court

In its determination of the application, the Supreme Court noted that the authorities and principles in relation to the right of appeal and applications for striking out a notice of appeal are well settled. The Court cited rule 78 of the Rules of the Supreme Court that provides:

“Any person on whom a notice of appeal has been served may at any time, either before or after the institution of the appeal, apply to court to strike out the notice of appeal, as the case may be, on the ground that no appeal lies or that some essential step in proceedings has not been taken or has not been taken within the prescribed time.”

On the ground raised in the application to strike out the notice of appeal—that no appeal lies as of right to the Court—the Supreme Court referred to the case of Baku Raphael Obudra & Another v Attorney General, Constitutional Appeal No 1/2005 where Odoki CJheld that:

“It is trite law that there is no such thing as inherent appellate jurisdiction. Appellate jurisdiction must be specifically created by law. It cannot be inferred or implied.”

The Court also referred to section 22of the Labour Dispute (Arbitration and Settlement Act) 2006 which states that:

“An appeal shall lie from a decision of the Industrial Court to the Court of Appeal only on a point of law, or to determine whether the Industrial Court had jurisdiction over the matter.”

Reflecting on the provision of the labour disputes law, the Court observed that it does not specifically provide appellate jurisdiction to the Supreme Court from the decision of the Court of Appeal in exercise of its appellate jurisdiction in matters arising from the Industrial Court.

The Supreme Court therefore held that the Respondent had no right of appeal in this Court and accordingly, the application was allowed with costs to the Applicant.

Key implications of ruling of the Supreme Court

From its ruling on the application to strike out the notice of appeal, the Supreme Court—

(a) re-emphasized that an appeal is a creature of statute and an Appellant must appeal under a specified provision of the law.

(b) affirmed that the highest appellate court for employment matters is the Court of Appeal.

(c) emphasized that there is no right of appeal to the Supreme Court from the decision of the Court of Appealin exercise of its appellate jurisdiction in matters arising from the Industrial Court.

Conclusion

The ruling is a landmark decision in employment law. It makes it clear that the Court of Appeal is the final appellate court for all matters arising out of the Industrial Court in exercise of its original jurisdiction.

The ruling also contextualizes the right of appeal within the constitutional provisions given that the Supreme Court’s status as a final appellate court for all matters is as prescribed by law (under article 132(2) of the Constitution).


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Disclaimer

No information contained in this alert should be construed as legal advice from ALP East Africa or ALP Advocates or the individual authors, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

For additional information in relation to this alert, please contact the following:

  • Ann Namara Musinguzi

         Head, Corporate & Commercial Department

        anamara@alp-ea.com

          

  • Judith Maryanne Aboto

         Associate, Corporate & Commercial Department

         jaboto@alp-ea.com

  • Rebecca Muheki

         Associate, Corporate & Commercial Department

         rmuheki@alp-ea.com