East African Court of Justice, 3rd June, 2020: The Appellate Division denied an Application filed by the Attorney General(AG) of the United Republic of Tanzania, seeking for extension of time to file an Appeal out of time, to challenge the decision of the First Instance Division delivered on 21st June 2018,that ruled in favor of the Managing Editor of Mseto Newspaper.
The First Instance Division in its decision, declared that, an order issued by the former Tanzanian Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, dated 10th August 2016 that banned publication of Mseto newspaper, as a restriction of press freedom and thereby constitutes a violation of the Respondent’s State obligation under Articles 6 (d) and 7 (2) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. The newspaper was banned for allegedly publishing incitements and false news.
The AG Tanzania having been dissatisfied with the decision, filed a notice of Appeal to Court on 19th July 2018, which has been struck out due to his failure by the AG to establish sufficient reasons to file the Appeal within the 30 days as prescribed by the Rules of the Court. The notice of appeal was struck out with costs to the Applicant (AG Tanzania).
Court also found that, the Application to extend time was filed on the 27th June, 2019 more than a year after the Notice of Appeal was lodged; when there is clear evidence that the Respondent was capable of filing papers in court more than 5 months after the General Notice was made. This is in Court’s considered view shows dilatoriness on the part of the Respondent.
Court in the real interrogation as to whether or not extension of time should be granted, related to the reason given by the AG of Tanzania (Respondent) relating to the re-structuring of the Office of the Attorney General. Court said that it is pertinent to examine the timelines in this matter. A careful look at The Office of The Attorney General (Re-structure) Order, 2018 (GN No. 48 of 2018) shows that it was published on the 13th February 2018. This is the time when the re-structuring of the Office of the Attorney General was to begin. However, the Judgment of the Trial Court is dated 21st June 2018 more than 4 months after the said General Notice was made.
The Respondent then filed a Notice of Appeal within time on the 19th July 2018 more than 5 months after the General Notice; it would appear by the Attorney General. It is strange therefore why the Respondent could not file the appeal within time. Clearly, the General Notice was made long before the Judgment in the Trial Court and did not affect the filing of the Notice of Appeal on time and logically that meant that the Respondent could still file the appeal as well. It is unclear why the Office of the Attorney General undertook the duty to file the appeal when under the General Notice this function had been moved to the Office of the Solicitor General. Counsel for the Respondent when tasked to explain this apparent anomaly conceded that there was no directive that prohibited the Office of the Attorney General from filing the appeal while the re-structuring was on going. That being the case, we find that there was no plausible reason as to why the appeal was not filed in time in the same manner in which the Notice of Appeal was filed. Court stated.
The ruling was delivered via Video Conference by Honourable Justices of the Appellate Division: Dr. Emmanuel Ugirashebuja (President), Liboire Nkurunzinza (Vice President), Aaron Ringera, Geoffrey Kiryabwire & Sauda Mjasiri.
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