Registered Trustees Of The Apostolic Church Lagos Area V Rahman A. Akindele (1967)
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BRETT, Ag. C.J.N
These proceedings originated in a hearing before the Registrar of Titles of an application by the appellants for registration as owners of some land, to which the respondents objected. The objection was upheld and the appellants appealed to the High Court of Lagos, as they had a right to do under section 98 of the Registration of Titles Act. The appeal was, we have been told, fully argued on the merits, but instead of giving a decision on the merits, Sowemimo, J., dismissed it for the reasons given in a judgement which is short enough to be quoted in full-
‘The notice of appeal and the grounds of appeal in this case were given by J. A. Cole & Company and described as legal practitioners representing the appellants.
I have had occasion to draw attention to the fact that it is a condition precedent to. an appeal that Order 3 rule 2 should be complied with. The firm of J. A. Cole and Company is not a legal practitioner under the Legal Practitioners Act of 1962. Therefore, there is no appeal before the court and in view of the provisions of Order 3 rule 12 the appeal shall stand dismissed. I make an order of £3-3s-0d costs in favour of the respondent.’
Mr Cole informed this Court, and Mr Makanju did not dispute it, that the point was taken by the judge of his own motion, and that he had not invited counsel to address him on it. Every court has a right to decline to adjudicate in proceedings that have not been instituted in the proper manner, but we must deplore any decision which rests on a ground on which the parties have not had the opportunity of being heard.
The references to Order 3 must mean Order 3 of the High Court of Lagos (Appeals) Rules, which apply to appeals from the Magistrates Court to the High Court Appeals brought under the Registration of Titles Act are governed by the Registration of Titles (Appeals) Rules. The relevant provisions are the same in the two sets of rules, but in a judgement that turns on a technicality it is more than usually desirable that the rule on which the judgement is based, should be cited accurately. Rule 4 of the applicable rules lays down that the 15 notice of appeal shall be in a prescribed form, shall be signed by the appellant or by the legal practitioner representing him, and shall contain, among other information, the name and the address of the legal practitioner representing the appellant or appellants. The notice filed in this case was given in the 20 prescribed form. It stated the name and address of the legal practitioner representing the appellants as ‘Messrs J. A. Cole and Co., 14/16 Abibu Oki Street, Lagos’, and was signed-
‘J. A. Cole
for J. A. Cole & Co.’
Mr J. A. Cole is admittedly a duly registered legal practitioner and entitled to practice as such under the Legal Practitioners Act, 1962. He has no partner in his practice, but he has registered the name of J. A. Cole & Co. under the Registration 30 of Business Names Act, 1961 and uses that name in his practice. It is not suggested that there is any professional objection to his doing this, and it is frequently done by solicitors in England, as the Law List shows. In our view the business name was correctly given as that of the legal practitioner 35 representing the appellants. In. signing the notice of appeal, Mr Cole used his own name, that is to say, the name in which he is registered as a legal practitioner. We hold that on any interpretation of the rules that was a sufficient compliance with them, and we do not accept the submission that the 40 addition of the words ‘for J. A. Cole & Co,’ would invalidate the signature if a signature in a business name was not permitted.
That is enough for the determination of this appeal. Counsel addressed the Court, and invited it to pronounce, on the wider issue of the use of a business name, including a name under which two or more legal practitioners carryon a practice in partnership, for the signature of documents which are required to be signed by a litigant or by the legal practitioner representing him, as it ‘vas said that its regularity had been doubted on occasion. The question does not arise in the present case, and we prefer to reserve it for a case in which it does arise.
The appeal is allowed, the judgement of the High Court, including the order for costs, is set aside and the matter is remitted to the High Court, with a declaration that the appeal to that court was properly before it, and a direction that Sowemimo, J., should now give judgement determining the appeal.
The respondents were not responsible for the initial error, but they opposed the application for leave to appeal to. this Court, and sought to uphold the judgement of Sowemimo, J., when the appeal came to be argued. They must pay costs assessed at 37 guineas.
Other Citation: (1967) LCN/1492(SC)