THE Court of Appeal in Tanzania has finally resolved a controversy on mandatory requirement of seeking leave to appeal against decisions of the High Court on labour disputes, ending debate that has existed for over seven years in the country’s judicial system.
In a landmark judgment delivered by the Full Court of five justices led by Acting Chief Justice Ibrahim Juma, the court ruled that the “right of appeal from the Labour Court under section 57 of Labour Institutions Act (LIA) shall no longer be conditional or predicted in obtaining leave to appeal.”
The Court, also composed of Justices Sauda Mjasiri, Augustine Mwarija, Richard Mziray and Rehema Mkuye, found that decisions given in several other cases requiring an aggrieved party to seek, and obtain, leave of the High Court’s Labour Division to institute the appeal were incorrectly decided.
“By interpolating conditions of leave to appeal into the plain language the Parliament used under section 57 of the LIA, these decisions of the Court went beyond what is plainly provided for under section 57,” the justices said, in their judgment dated May 31, 2017.
According to the justices, such and other decisions of the Court which had erred in concluding that leave to appeal was mandatory for appeals from Labour Court under section 57 of LIA shall henceforth be confined to their own respectiveappeal lodged by the Tanzania Teachers’ Union, as appellants, against four respondents, including: The Chief Secretary, Attorney General, Minister of State in the President’s Office (Public Service Management) and Ministry of Education’s Permanent Secretary.
Hearing of the matter had attracted heated debate from the parties, the centre of contention being section 5 (1) of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, which imposed a mandatory requirement of ‘leave to appeal’ on labour disputes and section 57 of LIA, which provides otherwise.
But in the judgment, the justices said that in its plain language, section 57 of the LIA itself clearly states “any party to the proceedings in the Labour Court may appeal against the decision of that court to the Court of Appeal of Tanzania on a point of law only.”
With such clarity of language of section 57, they said, there was no room for interpolations or reading in anything into the provision. “We found no rationale for the court in some of its earlier decisions to uplift the requirement of leave to appeal from section 5 (1) © and interpolate it into section 57,” they said.
Along the same argument, the justices said, they should not countenance the attempt made by Principal State Attorney Obadia Kameya, for the respondents, to stretch the meaning of the words “on a point of law only” which the Parliament has used under section 57 of the LIA.
“Since in its plain meaning section 57 has specifically restricted the right of appeal from Labour Court to points of law only, so shall be it, and no court should clothe itself with the mandate to expand the right of appeal to include appeals on matters of facts as well,” the justices concluded.
Facts of the case show that the respondents filed an application in the Labour Court, seeking a temporary injunction to restrain the appellant and its members from calling or participating in an industrial action or strike to demand better salary and other payments.
The respondents further asked the Labour Court to declare to be unlawful acts of calling for or participate in the intended strike. On August 2, 2012, Judge Sophia Wambura declared a strike ‘unlawful’ even though the same had by then been going on for three days.
She further directed the parties to return to the negotiation table in line with their expressed desire to reach an amicable settlement. Aggrieved and dissatisfied with the ruling, the appellant lodged an appeal to the Court of Appeal.
However, before the appeal could be set down for hearing before a panel of three justices, the Chief Justice directed a Full Bench to convene in order to first resolve the question of leave to appeal from decisions of the Labour Court. facts. The justices gave such position when adjudicating an