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- Case summary
The court considered an application requesting an order to commit the respondents for contempt of court for not respecting an interdict which restrained them from undertaking any developments on the land in dispute, until the determination of an application for interlocutory injunction.
The respondents argued that they were not in contempt since no formal order had been issued to give effect to the orders of the court. The respondents also denied developing the land in dispute. The court noted that there was no requirement for a formal order to be issued, since both parties and their counsel were in court when the order was issued.
The court considered whether the respondents willfully disobeyed the interdict order by going to the land in dispute, to work. The court found that contempt is a criminal offence, which requires an applicant to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, and to make a prima facie case before the respondent’s defence is considered.
The court found that the evidence was inconclusive since the applicant relied on pictures of people building on the land, but failed to identify the respondents as the people in the pictures, alternatively to prove that the respondents sent the people in the pictures.
Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF JUDICATURE
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE (FAST TRACK DIVISION)
HELD IN ACCRA ON FRIDAY THE 27TH DAY OF JANUARY,2012 BEFORE
HIS LORDSHIP JUSTICE UUTER PAUL DERY
SUIT NO. AP 173/2011
ROSE AMELE SAKA … … PLAINTIFF
- AKUTEY AZU
- KORYOO AZU … … DEFENDANTS
R U L I N G
This ruling is in respect of an application by Rose Amele Saka for an order to commit
the Respondents namely Akutey Azu and Koryoo Azu to prison for not respecting this
court, that is for contempt of court.
The grounds for the application are that this court on 8th September, 2011 restrained
both the Applicant and Respondents from undertaking any development on the land
which is subject of dispute between them pending the hearing of an application for
interlocutory injunction. Despite the order of the court the Respondents went onto the
land and continued with developments. To buttress the developments the
Respondents were carrying out the Applicant exhibited some pictures of people
carrying out developments on a land. The Applicant also exhibited the restraining
In response the Respondents state that no formal order had been filed and served on
them restraining them and the Applicant to the suit from developing the land pending
the final determination of the suit. To them by the rules and practice of this court, a
formal order ought to have been issued and filed to give effect to the Orders of the
court and that since that was not done the Applicant cannot cite them for contempt.
The Respondents furthermore deny going to the site to develop the land in dispute and
stated that even if the 2nd Respondent; Regina Azu visited the land in dispute, she only
went there to collect broken blocks that had fallen off the building as a result of heavy
rain storm and floods that had hit Accra. The Respondents thus deny that they willfully
disobeyed or disrespected the orders of the court.
The order which is subject to the instant application was given by this court on 8th
September, 2011. It states thus:
“Both parties herein are hereby restrained from doing any work on
the disputed land…”
The above order was given in the presence of both parties and their Counsel. Contempt
of court is any act or conduct that tended to bring the authority and administration of
the law into disrespect or disregard or interfere with, or prejudice parties, litigants, or
their witnesses in respect of pending proceedings – See In Re Effiduase Stool Affairs
(No.2); REPUBLIC V. Numapau, President of the National House of Chiefs and Others;
Ex parte Ameyaw II (No.2) [1998 – 99] SC GLR 639.
In the instant case therefore any of the parties would be bringing the authority and
administration of the law into disrespect or disregard if that party went onto the land in
dispute and did any work. And this would amount to contempt of court.
Both parties and their Counsel were in court when the order was given as such none of
them is entitled to be served the said order after it is issued and filed before he would
So the only factual issue is whether the Respondents did go onto the land in dispute to
work. Contempt of court as held in Re Effiduase Stool Affairs supra is quasi – criminal
as such the standard of proof is beyond reasonable doubt. The Applicant must thus
make out a prima facie case of contempt before the court could consider the
Respondents defence. The only evidence the Applicant has given to prove the charge
of contempt is some pictures of people building on a land. Those pictures do not
identify the Respondents as the people who were building. There is also no evidence that the Respondents sent any person to work on the disputed land. So the Applicant has failed to prove that indeed the Respondents disobeyed the court’s order of 8th September, 2011 restraining them from doing any work on the disputed land.
The application is therefore dismissed.
- MR. NATHANIEL MYERS FOR APPLICANT
- MR. GEORGE ADDO-YOBO FOR RESPONDENTS
UUTER PAUL DERY
JUSTICE OF THE HIGH COURT