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In The Matter Of The Public Lands Acquisition Ordinance, 1924 & Anor V. Chrispin S. Harding (1945) LJR-WACA

In The Matter Of The Public Lands Acquisition Ordinance, 1924 & Anor V. Chrispin S. Harding (1945)

LawGlobal Hub Judgment Report – West African Court of Appeal

Application for Conditional Leave to appeal or in the alternative for Special Conditional Leave to appeal—Court has no inherent polver to entertain appeals in order to grant relief in cases of hardship—Rules 31 and 32 of Rules in no way relevant to the question whether or not an appeal lies—No appeal lies from decision of the “Chief Justice” under Section 16 of the Public Lands Ordinance (Cap. 174)—Even if the term “Chief Justice” used in Section 17 could be construed to mean “Supreme Court” the terms of the section expressly negative or bar any right of appeat—Court does not possess powers analogous to those enjoyed by His Majesty in Council under the Royal. Prerogatives—Interpretation of Section 17 of Cap. 174—If Appellant’s contention that appeal does lie were correct this application could be imisconoeived, his proper course would• have been to appeal, against decision refusing him leave to appeal.

Held: Application dismissed.

Cases cited :

Churchill v. Crease, (1928) 5 Bing. 177.

Re Wi Matua, (1908) A.C. 448.

Canadian Pacific Railway v. Toronto, (1911) A.C. 461. Waterhouse v. Gilbert, 15 Q.B.D. 569.

Bryant v. Reading, 17 Q.B.D. 128.

Lyon v. Morris, 19 Q.B.D. 139.

J. C. Zizer for Claimant-Applicant.

The following Order of the Court was delivered by KINGDON, C.J., NIGERIA :—

This is an application “for Conditional Leave to appeal, or, in the alternative, for Special Conditional Leave to appeal from the decision of His Honour Mr. Justice Ivor L. Brace dated the 29th day of February, 1944, whereby it was amongst other things ordered

that the amount of compensation for a piece of land acquired at New England and the property of claimant be assessed and the value determined at £1,057 11s. 5d. and for any further or other Order as the Court may think fit to make in the interest of Justice”.

We are of opinion that it must fail for two reasons.

First, this CoUrt does not possess (as the applicant in his affidavit suggests that it does) any inherent power to entertain appeals in order to grant relief in cases of hardship, nor are rules 31 and 32 of the Rules of this Court, referred to by the applicant, in any way relevant to the question of whether or not an appeal lies. An appeal only lies to this Court when there is express statutory provision granting it, and of course a general right granted by one enactment is subject to any express exception prescribed in another (Churchill v. Crease, (1928) 5 Bing. 177). In this Colony the general right of appeal to this Court in civil cases is given by section 3 of the West African Court of Appeal (Civil Cases) Ordinance, 1929 (No. 9 of 1929), the relevant parts of which read as follows :—

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“. . . An appeal shall lie to the Court of Appeal :—

(a) from all final judgments and decisions of the Supreme Court

(i) given in respect of a claim exceeding the sum of fifty pounds;

ff

It will be seen that the appeal lies from decisions of the Supreme Court and the first question which arises is—Is the decision against which it is desired to appeal a decision of the Supreme Court or is it a decision of a different tribunal? The Ordinance under which the proceedings were had is the Public Lands Ordinance, 1924 (Cap. 174). By section 16 of that Ordinance cases of disputed compensation for land acquired are to -be heard and determined by the Chief Justice upon application made in that behalf, and section 2 of the Ordinance defines the term “Chief Justice” as including “any Judge of the Supreme Court of the Colony of Sierra Leone in its civil jurisdiction.” In section 17 the decision of the case is referred to as “the decision of the Chief Justice.” In the present case the decision is the decision of the Acting Chief Justice, which by reason of section 53 of the Supreme Court Ordinance, 1932 (No. 39 of 1932), is the same thing as the decision of the Chief Justice. If the legislature had intended that the case should come before the Supreme Court and be decided by that Court, no doubt it would have said so, but it did not. Instead it created a special tribunal ad hoc to decide such eases, consisting of the Chief Justice (as defined). Nowhere in the laws is there any provision for appeal from this tribunal and consequently, apart from any other reason, no appeal lies.

Secondly, we are of opinion that, even if the term “Chief Public Justice” used in section 17 of the Public Lands Ordinance, 1924,d! .tip
could be construed as synonymous with the term “Supreme Court” ardinanee, for the purpose of deciding whether or not an appeal lies to this 1924,.and Court, the terms of the section expressly negative and bar any right t fte n d

of appeal to this Court as effectively as if the words “and no appeal Situate at shall lie from such decision” had been actually included, for

although it has been held that a colonial enactment stating decisions ng7.‘ shall be “final and conclusive” without more, does not exclude the Chrispin prerogative of the Crown to grant special leave to appeal (Be Wi 13Harding Matua (1908) A.C. 448; Canadian Pacifix Railway v. Toronto (1911) Killeen, A.C. 461), this Court possesses no power analogous to the powers C.J. enjoyed by His Majesty in Council under the Royal Prerogative.

The relative words of section 17 are :—

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” The decision of the Chief Justice respecting compensation, or in the ease of disputed interest of title as aforesaid, shall be final and conclusive as respects all persons who have appeared and claimed . . .”

There is a series of English cases deciding that when a decision is declared to be “final and conclusive” an appeal is taken away (Waterhouse v. Gilbert, 15 Q.B.D. 569; Bryant v. Beading, 17 Q.B.D. 128; Lyon v. Morris, 19 Q.B.D. 139). But all these cases were decided after the enactment of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, 1876, section 20 of which provides :—

” Where by act of parliament it is provided that the decision of any court or judge tho jurisdiction of which court or judge is transferred to the high court of justice is to be final, an appeal shall not lie in any such ease from the decision of the high court of justice, or of any judge thereof to het majesty’s court of appeal.”

This enactment is not one of general application and does not apply to the Colony of Sierra Leone nor is there any corresponding enactment in the laws of the Colony. We, therefore, have to interpret the meaning of the enactment in section 17 of Chapter 174 without reference to these English cases.

Counsel for the Appellant has ingeniously argued first that the word “conclusive” means only the same as “final” and that “final” means simply “not interlocutory”, so that so far from an appeal being expressly bared by section 17 it is expressly permitted by section 3 of Ordinance No. 9 of 1929 (supra).

We are of opinion that this argument, though specious, is fallacious; in our view the word “final” is used in two distinct senses in enactments. Sometimes as in section 3 of Ordinance No. 9 of 1929 it is a technical word of art with an artificial and special meaning, i.e. “final” as distinct from “interlocutory”. In other enactments it has its plain and ordinary meaning, i.e. it means that the decision finally and conclusively decides the issue and that there is no appeal therefrom. When this is the n2osning intended, legislatures sometimes, but not always, make the intention abundantly clear by using the expression “final and conclusive” instead of

merely the word “final”. That is what in our view the legislature of Sierra Leone did in the year 1898 when it enacted in section 17 of the Public Lands Ordinance that “the decision of the Chief Justice . . . shall be final and conclusive”.

It appears to us that the material words of section 17 as to the decision of the “Chief Justice” being “final and conclusive” must mean that no appeal lies from such decision for the reason that if they do not mean that, no real meaning and effect can be given to them. Appellant’s Counsel has tried to get over that point by arguing that the decision of the Chief Justice, but for these words, would be merely interlocutory and that these words were effective to make the decision a final and not an interlocutory one ; and that such was the intention. We are unable to find any substance whatever in that contention.

The question before the Acting Chief Justice in this case was the amount of compensation which should be paid by the Government to the applicant. The decision of the Acting Chief Justice according to the Applicant’s affidavit completely disposed of that question by definitely determining the amount of compensation to be paid. It is nonsense to suggest that such a decision was an interlocutory decision requiring legislative enactment or anything else to turn it into what is technically known as a “final decision”. It was clearly and definitely a “final” decision as distinct from an “interlocutory” decision.

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Nor can it be said that the intention of the express enactment that the decision should be “final and conclusive” was merely to set up an estoppel against the parties to the proceedings in which the decision was given. That is trite law requiring no specific enactment.

There is no conceivable purpose, intention or meaning in the declaration that the decision should be final and conclusive other than the purpose, intention and meaning that the decision should not be subject to appeal.

We accordingly hold that the intention of that declaration was to bar any appeal to the Appellate Court which at that date existed in the Colony, namely, “the Full Court”, and that the words used effectively carried out that intention, and that they would equally effectively bar any appeal to this Court, even could it be held that the term “Chief Justice” is synonymous with ” Supreme Court”.

We may point out further that if the Appellant’s contention that an appeal does lie to this Court were correct, his procedure by way of this application would be misconceived; his proper course would have been to appeal against the decision of Acting Chief Justice Brace refusing him leave to appeal. In any case there is no power to grant special conditional leave to appeal, if an appeal does not lie as of right.


For the reasons given the application is dismissed with costs to be taxed.

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