AG challenges change of NHC house ownership

TANZANIA: THE Court of Appeal has allowed the Attorney General (AG) to challenge the change of ownership of a house belonging to the National Housing Corporation (NHC).

The house was rented to a tenant who later sold it to another person. Justice Lilian Mashaka ruled against Raksha Gadhvi and Jehangir Aziz, the respondents, after granting an application for extension of time lodged by the AG, the applicant, to file an application for revision against the decision of High Court’s Land Division.

“I grant extension of time. The applicant should lodge the intended application for revision within sixty days from the date of delivery of this ruling,” the justice declared in her ruling dated 29 January, 2024.

During the hearing of the matter, the applicant had moved the Court to grant extension of time to file an application for revision on ownership of the house in question on Plot No. 1169/199, Jamuhuri Street in Ilala District, based on the illegalities in the impugned decision.

The applicant averred that the decision of the High Court was tainted with illegalities, as the Court dismissed the suit lodged by NHC without joining the AG, as a necessary party, despite the knowledge of the amendment of the Government Proceedings Act vide Act No. 1of2020.

He submitted that the suit in question challenging the respondents to change ownership of the rented NHC was dismissed by the Court without according the applicant; Attorney General, an opportunity to be heard.

In her ruling, Justice Mashaka recalled that the position of the law is settled that an issue of illegality of the impugned decision constitutes good cause for extension of time.

She noted from supporting affidavit that the applicant was not a party to the proceedings of the High Court, in which a dismissal order granted right of ownership to the respondents without proof which denied him the right to be heard on the ownership of the property.

The justice emphasised that the right to be heard is a fundamental principle of natural justice which should always be observed, a party’s right to be heard be guaranteed. She referred to a case involving VIP Engineering and Marketing Limited and three others v. Citibank Tanzania Limited, Consolidated Civil Reference No. 6, 7, and 8 of 2006 (unreported).

In that case, the Court stated: “It is therefore, settled law that a claim of Illegality of challenged decision constitutes sufficient reason for extension of time (…) regardless of whether or not reasonable explanation has been given by the applicant (…) to account for the delay.” Guided by the above excerpts, the justice said, “I am satisfied that the alleged illegalities in the decision sought to be challenged amount to good cause warranting extension of time to avail the applicant opportunity to file application for revision to address them.” It was submitted during the hearing that way back in 1971, the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania acquired Plot No. 1169/199, Jamuhuri Street, Ilala Municipality, Dar es Salaam with Certificate Title No. 1821. An acquisition notice was published in the Government Gazette.

The property was placed under custody of NHC, a public corporation established by the National Housing Corporation Act, CAP. 295. The corporation leased the building to several tenants, including Raksha Gadhvi. It transpired that Raksha Gadhvi sold the property to Jehangir Aziz, who registered the same in his name with no notice to the NHC regarding change of ownership.

It is alleged that the NHC saw a notice of change of ownership through an advert in a newspaper where Jehangir Aziz was requesting for a new Certificate of Title.

Since the notice was not pleasant to NHC, she wrote to the Registrar of Title to register her concern that the property was owned by the Government and also filed a suit at the High Court of Tanzania at Dar es Salaam, Land Division, Land Case No. 104 of 2018.

The NHC claimed to be declared a rightful owner of the property. The suit was dismissed for expiry of speed track.

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