The power of the court to strike out pleadings under the Rules of Court and the inherent jurisdiction of the court must only be exercised under obvious situations which do not require arguments.
Supreme Court, 14th January, 2015 (Civil Appeal: No.J4/16/2014)
Coram: ANSAH, JSC. (PRESIDING); DOTSE, JSC.; GBADEGBE , JSC.; BENIN, JSC.; AKAMBA, JSC.
The Trial High Court in this matter terminated proceedings summarily with the Plaintiff’s case being dismissed and judgment entered for the 1st Defendant on its Counterclaim. In an appeal to the Court of Appeal, Accra, the decision of the High Court was reversed. Dissatisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeal the 1st Defendant appealed to the Supreme Court.
The main issue resolved by the Supreme Court was whether the Court of Appeal, in reversing the decision of the trial court applied settled principles in Applications brought under the Rules of Court and the court’s Inherent Jurisdiction to strike out defective pleadings.
Among others, the Supreme Court (By a 4-1 majority; Dotse JSC dissenting) observed that the case of the Plaintiff, though expressed in unusual form and in some instances appeared incoherent and difficult to comprehend, raised a case regarding some out of court settlement between the parties that was fit to be investigated by the trial court. Also worth investigating by the trial court was a declarative relief sought by the Defendants. The Defendants not having admitted material allegations of fact made by the Plaintiff, the trial court ought to have received evidence on the alleged vitiating circumstances before deciding on the controversies before it. The power of the court to strike out pleadings (and for stated reasons to either stay, dismiss or enter judgment for a party) under the Rules of Court and the inherent jurisdiction of the court must only be exercised under obvious situations which do not require arguments.
The Supreme Court further held that in an Application to dismiss suit brought under Ord. 11 r 18 and the inherent jurisdiction of the court, the court must first be called upon to strike out defective pleadings before proceeding to stay, dismiss or enter judgment accordingly. The Supreme Court found this rule not to have been complied with in the trial High Court.