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INVOKING THE CIVIL JURISDICTION OF THE GHANAIAN DISTRICT COURTS: ARE THERE ANY LIMITATIONS? By Adwoa Paintsil ESQ.

INTRODUCTION

 

In BELEWUDZI & ORS V DZOTSI & ORS [1979] GLR 173, Justice Sowah rightfully describes lower courts as creatures of statutes. The learned Justice states at page 175 as follows,

“… all courts including inferior courts are creatures of legislation. The limit, scope and extent of their jurisdiction are structured in the statute creating them…”

Lower Courts by legislation are oft limited in terms of the amount of money claimable before them. The District Court as an inferior court is no different; generally speaking, the civil jurisdiction of the District Court is capped at GHS500,000.00.[1] However, in some special circumstances, the District Court may sit on matters where the amount involved is above the aforementioned GHS500,000.00.

It is the author’s ambition to discuss the circumstances under which the District Court may hear matters where the money claimed is well above GHS500,000.00.

 

JURISDICTION OF THE DISTRICT COURT

As mentioned earlier, the District Court as a lower court, derives its jurisdiction primarily from the statute that created it, which is the Court’s Act 1993 (Act 459). In addition to this, the District Court also has jurisdiction under the Rents Act 220 1963 (Act 220), the Rent Control Act 1986 (P.N.D.C.L. 138), and the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1987 (P.N.D.C.L. 187), all of which would be discussed in later paragraphs.

Under the Courts Act 1993 (Act 459)[2] as amended by the Courts Regulations 2020 L.I 2429, the civil jurisdiction of the District Court is as follows,

  1. In personal actions arising under a contract or a tort for the recovery of a liquidated sum of money where the amount claimed is not above GHS500,000.00;
  2. To grant injunctions, orders to stay waste/alienation, or orders for the detention and preservation of property in actions where said property is the subject matter of that action;
  3. In interpleader actions in respect of property attached in execution of a decree/an order made by the District Court;
  4. In civil causes or matters relating to the landlord and tenant of premises, or a person interested in the premises as required or authorised by a law relating to landlord and tenant;
  5. In actions relating to ownership, possession or occupation of land, where the value of the land does not exceed GHS500,000.00;
  6. In divorce and other matrimonial causes or matters and actions for paternity and custody of children;
  7. In applications for the grant of probate or letters of administration in respect of the estate of a deceased person, and in causes and matters relating to succession to property of a deceased person, who had at the time of death a fixed place of abode within the area of jurisdiction of the District Court where the value of the estate or property is not above GHS500,000.00.

 

In addition, according to the provisions of the Rent Act, 1963, (Act 220), Section 7 and the Rent Control Act, 1986 (P.N.D.C.L. 138), Section 14, the District Court Magistrate has power to act as a Rent Magistrate as well as jurisdiction to preside over appeals from the Rent and Housing Committee. The just-mentioned Sections state as follows;

S 7, Rents Act 1963

Subject to this Act and the Regulations, a District Magistrate functioning as a Rent Magistrate for the purposes of this Act shall have the same powers and observe the same procedure as a District Magistrate has and observes in the exercise of the ordinary jurisdiction of that Magistrate.

 

S 14, Rent Control Act 1986

(1) A person who is aggrieved by a decision or order of a Rent and Housing Committee may within thirty days from the date of the decision or order, appeal against the decision or order to a District Court.

 

Furthermore, under Section 19 of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, the District Court is granted jurisdiction to sit on matters concerning the payment of compensation for employees (workmen). The ambit of the Workmen’s Compensation Act is to cover cases of personal injury to employees that occur in the course of employment or arise out of said employment. The aforementioned Section 19 reads,

S 19, Workmen’s Compensation Act 1987

(1)  Except as is provided in this Act and the Rules, the Court may, on or in connection with a question to be investigated or determined exercise the powers and jurisdiction exercisable by a District Court in or in connection with civil actions in the District Court and the law, rules and practice relating to civil actions and to the enforcement of judgments and orders of the District Court shall apply with the modifications that are necessary…

(5)  The record of the investigation including the finding of the Court is receivable as evidence in the proceedings, and a certificate signed by a District Magistrate or an officer of the Court which has conducted the investigation is sufficient proof of the record and the signature shall be admitted without proof unless the Court has reason to doubt the genuineness of the signature.

(6)  Where a request is receivable by a Court from a Court in another district for an investigation of a matter arising out of proceedings for compensation instituted in the other Court under this Act, the Court may investigate, and shall transmit to the other Court the record of the investigation, including its findings, duly certified by the District Magistrate or by an officer of the Court…

From the above paragraphs, t it is clear that while some actions have been expressly limited by a monetary cap, other actions seem not to have any limit on them at all, raising the question, “What happens in the absence of an express cap?”

 

GENERALIBUS SPECIALIA NON DEROGANT

Rules of interpretation state that special or specific laws or provisions override general laws or provisions on the same subject matter. This is based on the Latin maxim, “Generalibus specialia non derogant”. Thus, where there are inconsistencies between a special and general provision, the inconsistency is resolved in favour of the special provision. In the case of KUENYEHIA V ARCHER [1993-94] 2 GLR 525[3], the learned Bamford-Addo JSC as she then was stated,

“…The principle of law is that whenever in an enactment there appears general provisions as well as particular provisions which are contradictory, the particular provisions are to be considered as an exception to the general rule, and should be made effective despite the general provisions…See also Ebbs v Boulnois (1875) 10 Ch App 479 at 484 to the same effect. And, in Churchill v Crease (1828) 5 Bing 1028 at 1030 Best CJ stated: ‘The rule is, that, Where a general intention is expressed, and the act expresses also a particular intention incompatible with the general intention, the particular intention is to be considered in the nature of an exception’…”

 

Again, in SAMUEL BONNEY & 4,174 OTHERS VRS GHANA PORTS AND HARBOURS, CIVIL APPEAL NO. J4/39/2012, OWUSU JSC held as follows,

“…Whenever there is a general enactment in a statute which if taken in its most comprehensive sense, would override a particular enactment in the same statute, the particular enactment must be operative, and the general enactment must be taken to affect only the ports of the statute to which it may properly apply…”

 

Thus, the special provisions made in respect of the civil jurisdiction of the District Court which are without a monetary cap would override the general provisions which limits its jurisdiction to GHS500,000.00, in the event that there is a conflict between the two. This civil jurisdiction of the District Court is hence divided into two broad categories: General (Capped at GHS500,000.00) and special (Uncapped).

The General jurisdiction is applicable in

  1. All personal actions arising under contract or tort for the recovery of any liquidated sum.
  2. Actions relating to ownership, possession or occupation of land.
  3. In applications for grant of probate or letters of administration.

 

On the other hand, the special jurisdiction is applicable in;

  1. Matters relating to landlord and tenant including appellate jurisdiction over decisions of the Rent Committee.
  2. Divorce, paternity and custody of children and other matrimonial causes (when sitting as a Family Tribunal).
  3. Claims for compensation to employees under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, the District Court is further granted jurisdiction to sit on matters concerning the payment of compensation for employees (workmen).

 

Jurisdiction in Matrimonial Applications

In Section 47 (1) (f) of the Courts Act 1993 (Act 459) the District Court has jurisdiction in divorce and other matrimonial causes, paternity and custody of children. This jurisdiction is complemented by Section 50 of the Courts Act (supra) which grants the District Court additional jurisdiction to sit as a family tribunal in matters and to hear and determine actions that arise under the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560). As a family tribunal, the District Court has power to sit on matters concerning parentage, custody, access and maintenance of children.[4]

The jurisdiction of the District Court as a family tribunal to oversee matters on parentage, custody, access and maintenance of children is not disputed, however, same cannot be said for the jurisdiction of the District Court in matrimonial matters.

 

When it comes to the District Court’s jurisdiction in divorce matters and other matrimonial causes, while there is a general consensus that there is no monetary cap, there is a dispute concerning the type of marriages that can be brought before the District Court in respect of dissolution and other matrimonial matters. In this regard, there are two schools of thought. One school of thought opines that this jurisdiction is limited to only customary law cases unless the Chief Justice otherwise directs, while the other school of that posits that this jurisdiction is all encompassing and not limited to customary marriages only.

According to the school of thought that the jurisdiction of the District Court is limited to customary marriages only, the High Court or Circuit is the appropriate court of first instance. This proposition is based on Sections 40 and 43 of Act 367 which state,

“In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, Court means, subject to section 40, the High Court or a Circuit Court”.

 

The referred to Section 40 provides,

“Transfer of Undefended Actions.

The Chief Justice may by writing under his hand transfer any undefended action under this Act from the High Court or a Circuit Court to a District Court, and that court shall have jurisdiction.”

 

Proponents of this school of thought state that by reason of these two provisions, a District Court can only have jurisdiction over non-customary marriages if said action is undefended and transferred to the District Court by the Chief Justice. Indeed, in THE REPUBLIC vs. THE DISTRICT COURT, SEKONDI (RESPONDENT) EXPARTE: MARTIN OFFEI (APPLICANT) SALLY OFFEI [2018] DLHC6491, His Lordship, P. Bright Mensah, relying on the arguments of Counsel for the Interested Party and on the former provisions of the Court’s Act 1993[5], held as follows,

“…First, S.47(1)(f) of the Courts Act, 1993 (Act 459) enacted that a District Court shall within the area of its jurisdiction have civil jurisdiction in divorce and other matrimonial causes or matters and actions for paternity and custody of children [where the law applicable is exclusively customary law]. The law that however seeks to give jurisdiction in matrimonial causes other than customary law marriages to the District Court provides in S.47(1)(f) of Act 620 that the District Court shall jurisdiction in divorce and other matrimonial causes or matter and actions for paternity. Prima facie, the law now appears to give jurisdiction in matrimonial causes under the Matrimonial Causes Act, (Act 367) also to the District Court.  However, it is the judgment of this court that on the principle of generalia specialbus non derogant, the exclusive jurisdiction to determine any matrimonial issue brought under the Act i.e. Act 367 is restricted only to the High Court and the Circuit Court.  Not even the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in the matter unless it was through the normal appeal process from either the High Court or the Circuit Court to the Court of Appeal and finally to the Supreme Court. I do, therefore, endorse the erudite submissions of learned Counsel for the Applicant that the Sekondi District Court lacked jurisdiction in the matter…”

In THE REPUBLIC vs. THE DISTRICT COURT, SEKONDI (RESPONDENT) EX PARTE: MARTIN OFFEI (APPLICANT) SALLY OFFEI [2018] DLHC6491, the Interested Party and the Applicant were married under customary law and which marriage was converted into a marriage under the Ordinance. Subsequently, the interested party instituted divorce proceedings against the Applicant. The Interested Party, not satisfied with the judgment of the District Magistrate, applied for an order of certiorari to quash said decision on grounds that the District Magistrate lacked jurisdiction to dissolve marriages under the Ordinance.

 

The other school of thought, which the author herein agrees with, is that the District court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Circuit and High Court in divorce matters including non-customary law marriages. As stated earlier, jurisdiction of the District Court as a lower court, is conferred under the Statute that creates it. Under Act 459, it is clear that the District Court is granted jurisdiction in all divorce matters. Section 47 (1)(f) (supra) reads,

“: A district court shall within the area of its jurisdiction have civil jurisdiction in the following cases…(f) in in divorce and other matrimonial causes or matters and actions for paternity and custody of children”

The author herein finds reliance on the previous provisions of Section 47 (1) (f) to circumscribe the jurisdiction of the District Court to be absurd. Under the previous provisions of Section 47 (1) (f), the jurisdiction that was circumscribed was the jurisdiction of the community tribunals which no longer exist. Act 620 which amended Act 459 established a new lower court, i.e. a district court which did away with community tribunals, therefore it would be bizarre to bind the new court so established by the limitations of its predecessor court. The fact that the jurisdiction of the community tribunals was subsumed under the jurisdiction of the district court does not preclude the district court from having jurisdiction that far exceeds the community tribunals. This is supported by the contents of Order 32 of the District Court Rules 2002009, (CI 59) which states,

“ORDER 32: MATRIMONIAL APPLICATION

Rule 1: Jurisdiction

(1) The Court in the exercise of its matrimonial jurisdiction under section 47(1)(f) of the Courts Act, 1993 (Act 459) as amended may deal with

(a) divorce,

(b) paternity,

(c) custody of children, and

(d) other matrimonial causes”

 

Additionally, the provisions of Act 367 which are relied on, are too vague to limit the jurisdiction of the District Court; mere definition of what constitutes a court cannot be relied on as accurately circumscribing the scope of a court’s jurisdiction. According to the Interpretation Act 2009 (Act 792)[6], definitions contained in an enactment are to be construed as applicable when a contrary intention does not appear from either the enactment itself or related enactments. Nothing in the Matrimonial Causes Act or the Courts’ Act, both of which regulate jurisdiction of courts established in Ghana, show an intention to circumscribe the jurisdiction of the district court in that manner neither do they show an intention to vest original jurisdiction over ordinance marriages exclusively in the high court. Thus, the definition of ‘court’ in Act 367 cannot be used as sufficient ammunition. Further supporting this school of thought is the pronouncement of the Court of Appeal in THE REPUBLIC V DISTRICT MAGISTRATE COURT, APAM AND BONDZIE ATTA QUAYE EX PARTE-MRS VICTORIA QUAYE [2017] DLCA4631. In EX PARTE MRS. VICTORIA QUAYE (Supra), the Applicant and her husband were married under the Ordinance. Subsequently, the Applicant’s husband applied for and obtained an order for dissolution in the District Court. At the time the divorce order was obtained, divorce proceedings between the parties had already been commenced in London where the Parties resided. Furthermore, the order was granted without notice to the Applicant. Consequently, the Applicant applied for a certiorari to quash the order of the District Court on grounds inter alia that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to dissolve marriages under the Ordinance. Although the Court of Appeal granted the certiorari on grounds that the order was granted in breach of the natural justice rule of audi alteram partem, the Court of Appeal rightly noted that the District Court was vested with power to dissolve marriages under the ordinance, saying,

“Counsel for the Applicant/Respondent conceded the submission of counsel for the Interested Party/Appellant that the High Court erred in holding that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain a petition for divorce of a marriage contracted under the Marriages Act 1884 – 1985.  This is the obvious position of the law as same is clearly stated in the following pieces of legislation, namely:

Order 32 rule 1 (1) of the District Court Rules, 2009 (C.I. 59) and

Section 47 (1)(f) of the Courts Act 1993 (Act 459)”

Since the High Court is bound by the decisions of the Court of Appeal, it is safe to say that the Court’s decision in EX PARTE: MARTIN OFFEI (Supra) is against the weight of law.

 

Once jurisdiction has been expressly conferred by a Statute, said jurisdiction should be expressly proscribed by Statute. The Learned S.A. Brobbey states in pages 31-32 of his book, “Practice & Procedure in the Trial Courts &Tribunals of Ghana”,

“…and so the precise limits of any court must be specifically determined by examination of Act 620, CI 59, LI 1574 or the Statute granting the jurisdiction.”

It stands to reason that since the jurisdiction of the district court in matrimonial matters has not been specifically limited by any enactment, any said limitation is wrong in law.

 

Jurisdiction in Matters Relating to Landlord and Tenant

Section 47 (1) (d) of the Courts Act 1993 (Act 459), which gives the District Court concurrent jurisdiction with the High Court in rent matters states,

“S 47 (1)(d),

A District Court shall, within the area of its jurisdiction, have civil jurisdiction…in Civil causes or matters relating to the landlord and tenant of premises, or a person interested in the premises as required or authorised by a law relating to landlord and tenant”

 

Supporting the aforementioned Section 47 (1) (d), are the provisions of the Rent Act, 1963, (Act 220), Section 7 and the Rent Control Act, 1986 (P.N.D.C.L. 138) Section 14. These two provisions empower the District Court Magistrate to act as a Rent Magistrate as well as preside over appeals from the Rent and Housing Committee. The just-mentioned Sections state as follows;

“S 7, Rents Act 1963

Subject to this Act and the Regulations, a District Magistrate functioning as a Rent Magistrate for the purposes of this Act shall have the same powers and observe the same procedure as a District Magistrate has and observes in the exercise of the ordinary jurisdiction of that Magistrate.

S 14, Rent Control Act 1986

(1) A person who is aggrieved by a decision or order of a Rent and Housing Committee may within thirty days from the date of the decision or order, appeal against the decision or order to a District Court.”

 

The High Court in WOODE VRS DADSON [1976] 2 GLR 185, lends it voice to support the opinion that the jurisdiction of the District Court in rent matters is uncapped. In WOODE V DADSON (supra), the Plaintiff Landlord, filed a complaint with a rent officer against the Defendant Tenant for rent arrears of ¢10,250.00 (old Ghana cedis), well above the then monetary limit of the District Court. The rent officer referred the matter to a rent magistrate who the District Court gave judgement in favour of the Plaintiff. The Defendant Tenant appealed against the judgment on the grounds that the amount claimed as rent arrears was above the monetary limit placed on the District Court and as such should not have been entertained by the District Court, and applied for stay of execution pending appeal. The Court dismissing the application for stay of execution pending appeal stated,

“It is quite clear that claims under section 37 (1) (4) and (a) should not exceed the amount specified…But there is no limitation placed on the jurisdiction of the district magistrate, in my view, in so far as civil causes or matters relating to landlord and tenant are concerned. A claim for arrears of rent by a landlord from a tenant is a civil cause relating to landlord and tenant.  It is also a claim for recovery of a liquidated sum which may seem to come under section 37 (1) (a).  However, if the claim exceeds that amount it does appear that the district court’s jurisdiction is ousted, because it is a claim for recovery of a liquidated sum or a debt.  But a claim for arrears of rent is not only a debt simpliciter; it is a debt with a difference—a debt arising out of a relationship between landlord and tenant and the Act does not limit jurisdiction of the district court when it comes to dealing with civil causes or matters relating to landlord and tenant.  If it was the intention of the legislature to limit a district court in its jurisdiction as regards civil causes or matters relating to landlord and tenant it would have employed such words…”

 

The case of WOODE VRS DADSON (supra) was cited with approval in MRS BANNERMAN QUIST & 1 OR vs. MICHAEL AGBOTUI SOUSSOUDIS [2000] DLCA 6535[7] and in a recent court ruling granted by His Lordship Stephen Oppong in the matter of THE REPUBLIC VRS THE DISTRICT MAGISTRATE-LA DISTRICT COURT, EX PARTE MRS. JULIANA OKOH, MRS HENRIETTA ABREBRESEH& DR. FRANCIS WERNER OFFEI; STANDARD CHARTERED BANK LTD (INTERESTED PARTY) SUIT NO. GJ/1286/2020.

In THE REPUBLIC VRS THE DISTRICT MAGISTRATE-LA DISTRICT COURT, EX PARTE MRS. JULIANA OKOH, MRS HENRIETTA ABREBRESEH& DR. FRANCIS WERNER OFFEI; STANDARD CHARTERED BANK LTD (INTERESTED PARTY) SUIT NO. GJ/1286/2020, the La District Court declined jurisdiction to sit on a matter for rent arrears because the arrears claimed was well over the monetary jurisdiction of the District Court in personal matters, and which decision was challenged in the High Court by the Applicants. His Lordship Justice Oppong, stated as follows,

“I make a finding of fact that indeed the Respondent in declining jurisdiction in the manner as contained in Exhibit “JO2” committed error in the sense that it is clear that from the provisions in Section 7 of the Rent Act 1963, Act 229 and Section 47(1)(d) of the Courts Act 1993, Act 459 as amended by L.I 2211 that the District Court has jurisdiction in all landlord/tenant matters irrespective of the amount of rent being claimed…Again the error became more apparent when the Respondent in the face of a binding judicial precedent in the case of Woode vrs Dadson (1976) 2GLR 185 where the High Court had made an authoritative pronouncement to the effect that there is no monetary limitation in respect of rent arrears claimed relative land/tenant on the District court…”

In short, there is no amount too high for the District Court to assume jurisdiction in matters involving landlord/tenant relationships. The question of how much is too much does not play a part in determining the jurisdiction of the District Magistrate as a Rent Magistrate. As has been stated by His Lordship, Dennis Adjei in his book, “Land Law, Practice and Conveyancing in Ghana”,

“The Rent Magistrate can award arrears of rent over and above the jurisdiction conferred on him by the Courts Act because it is a special jurisdiction that entitles him to determine any matter…Section 47 (1) (d) of the Courts Act, Act 459 does not limit the jurisdiction of the District Court with respect to causes or matters relating to the landlord and tenant of premises, or a person interested in the premises as required or authorized by a law relating to landlord.”

 

Jurisdiction under the Workmen’s Compensation Law 1987

The Workmen’s Compensation Law, under Section 19 grants the District Court original jurisdiction to hear matters arising from and related to the payment of compensation for personal injuries[8] and death[9] of employees by accident, arising out of, and in the course of employment. The said Section 19 reads,

“Section 19

(1)  Except as is provided in this Act and the Rules, the Court may, on or in connection with a question to be investigated or determined exercise the powers and jurisdiction exercisable by a District Court in or in connection with civil actions in the District Court and the law, rules and practice relating to civil actions and to the enforcement of judgments and orders of the District Court shall apply with the modifications that are necessary.”

The original jurisdiction of the District Court is further affirmed by Section 21 of the Workmen’s Compensation Law which reads,

“Section 21—Appeals.

(1) Subject to this section and subsection (7) of section 11 an appeal shall lie to the High Court from any order of the Court.

(2) No appeal shall lie in any case in which the parties have agreed to abide by the decision of the Court, or in which the order of the Court gives effect to an agreement between the parties.

(3) No appeal shall lie after the expiration of 30 days from the date of the order of the Court.

(4) The High Court may, if it thinks fit, extend the time for appealing under this section.”

 

As stated earlier of the rent jurisdiction of the District Court, the absence of a monetary limitation indicates that there is none over the District Court in matters like these. This submission is also supported by the recent ruling of Her Ladyship, Justice Sophis Rosetta Bernasko Essah in THE REPUBLIC V THE DISTRICT MAGISTRATE-ACCRA, EX PARTE PRINCE MANTHOLINE, SGS LABORATORY LTD (INTERESTED PARTY) SUIT NO. GJ1541/2016. In EX PARTE PRINCE MANTHOLINE (supra), the Applicant, an ex-employee of SGS Laboratory entered into a Collective Bargaining Agreement with SGS Laboratory. Subsequently, he was involved in a near fatal accident in the course of his employment which rendered him permanently unable to continue his employment with SGS Laboratories. Consequently, he instituted an action against SGS Laboratories under the Workmen’s Compensation Act at the District Court, and which action the District Magistrate declined jurisdiction over. In granting an application for a certiorari to quash the decision of the District Magistrate and compel the District court to assume jurisdiction, Her Ladyship held as follows;

“…the District Magistrate declined jurisdiction notwithstanding the fact that Section 16 (1) and (2) of PNDCL 187 clothed him with jurisdiction…In my view, the power of the Magistrate is clearly stated in this Act. The Magistrate is vested with power to hear this matter, From the ruling, he is aware of this. He did not provide any legal basis for declining jurisdiction. He did not provide any Statute which prohibits him from determining the issue which he declined to handle. Accordingly, since the decision to decline jurisdiction is not supported by any law or statute, the ruling constitutes an error on the part of the presiding Judge and on the face of the record.

 

CONCLUSION

The jurisdiction of the District Court is not just in terms of money but also in terms of the claims and reliefs sought. Thus, it is important to determine whether by the facts of a matter, the District Court is vested with power to sit on said matter rather than just look at the monetary value of the claim.  It is the author’s hope that this article has shed some light to the jurisdiction of the District Court and the circumstances under which the District Court has unfettered juridisdiction.

 

Footnotes

*The Author is a Junior Associate at Robert Smith Law Group

[1] Courts Regulations 2020, LI 2429

[2] Section 47 of the Courts Act 1993 (Act 459).

[3] Quoted with approval in REPUBLIC V HIGH COURT (FAST TRACK DIVISION), ACCRA, EX PARTE PPE LTD & PAUL JURIC (UNIQUE TRUST FINANCIAL SERVICES LIMITED INTERESTED PARTY) (2007-2008) SCGLR 188.

[4] Section 35, Children’s Act 1998 (Act 560)

[5] Section 47, Court’s Act (Unrevised)

“Community Tribunals

S 47 (1) (f): A community tribunal shall within the area of its jurisdiction have civil jurisdiction in the following cases…(f) in in divorce and other matrimonial causes or matters and actions for paternity and custody of children where the law applicable is exclusively customary law.”

[6] Section 38(2):

‘An interpretation section or provision contained in an enactment shall be read and construed as being applicable,

 

(a) only if the contrary intention does not appear in the enactment; and

(b) to the enactments relating to the same subject-matter, unless a contrary intention appears in the enactment.

[7] …on arrears of rent, the primary jurisdiction is to handle matters affecting landlord and tenant, and rent may come up for consideration, and that per se should not deny its jurisdiction. Instances abound in such jurisdictional areas. One is matters relating to maintenance claims under the Maintenance of Children Decree, 1977 (S.M.C.D.133). Jurisdiction under that Decree is conferred on family tribunals established under it, which tribunals are part of the inferior courts, equated with District Courts, now Community Tribunals. Yet it cannot be argued that a claim for maintenance under that Decree is beyond that tribunal’s jurisdiction; or can one complain that the tribunal exceeded its jurisdiction by awarding a sum of maintenance which is in excess of its ordinary civil jurisdiction. The same applies to arrears in contribution to the Social Security fund. Where special enactment has been passed that gives jurisdiction to a particular court to hear certain matters, it must be assumed that it invests that court with all powers relating to the subject-matter, unless express words to the contrary are used, or it could be inferred from its plain language that its jurisdiction is circumscribed.

[8] Section 2

[9] Section 3

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