The Kumasi High Court has quashed its own ruling which slapped the government with a $15.3 million judgement debt for the unlawful seizure of properties belonging to a mining firm, Heritage Imperial Company.
In its latest ruling, the court, presided over by Justice Samuel Diawuo, held that it had inherent jurisdiction to set aside its own judgement, as it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the legal action that led to the initial ruling.
This follows an application by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, which sought an order to set aside the court’s earlier ruling as null and void.
On February 2019, Heritage Imperial Company initiated a legal action against the government for what it claimed was the unlawful invasion and seizure of its properties by the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Illegal Mining, a task force set up by the government to tackle the menace of illegal mining.
As part of its reliefs, the company prayed the court to declare as unlawful the invasion of the mining site and the seizure of its excavators and equipment.
It also wanted an order directed at the state to release its machinery, equipment and money seized by the task force from its concession or, in the alternative, the cost of the machinery and equipment to be assessed and the value paid to it.
Again, it also prayed for general damages, as well as cost of proceedings, including counsel’s fees on a full indemnity basis.
Initial ruling challenged
In May this year, Justice Diawuo awarded $15.3 million judgment debt against the government and ordered it to pay Heritage Imperial GH¢600,000.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, the A-G challenged the ruling at the same court, seeking an order to set the ruling aside.
It was the case of the A-G that the commencement of the action by the company, without regard to the mandatory statutory stipulations of the State Proceedings Act, 1998 (Act 555), was unlawful.
Again, he argued that the order for the payment of $15.3 million to the mining company was unlawful and without basis.
He further averred that the company failed to give a concise statement of the nature of the claim it was seeking in its legal action.
The A-G contended that Heritage Imperial, in its writ, did not claim the $15.3 million against the state.
“The relief of $15,304,714.20 granted by the court was a material and specific one, clear notice of which had to be given on the writ of summons and statement of claim,” Mr Dame argued.
The court, he said, did not have jurisdiction to grant the relief of $15.3 million against the state.
The A-G also contended that the failure of company to claim the relief of $15.3 million on its writ of summons was intended to deceive the court and deprive the state of appropriate revenue, as appropriate filing fees were paid on the reliefs awarded to Heritage Imperial Company.
Justice Diawuo, in his latest ruling, held that the court had inherent jurisdiction to “set aside its own judgment when same was plainly entered without jurisdiction or is offensive to any provision of the laws of Ghana”.
The judge upheld that the failure of Heritage Imperial Company to state the specific relief on its writ of summons was a fundamental defect.