THE High Court, Bukoba District Registry, has dismissed the suit lodged by former Open University of Tanzania Student, Aloys Thomas, challenging, among other things, deduction from his salary the loan he was funded by the Higher Education Student’s Loans Board (HESLB).
Judge Lucia Kairo ruled in favour of the Attorney General, the HESLB and the Open University after upholding a ground of objection with effect that the suit by the student, the plaintiff in the matter, was time barred.
“Applying the provision to the facts at hand, the proper remedy is to dismiss this suit with no order to cost as the matter wasn’t determined on merit. Objection upheld.
The Plaintiff is advised to seek for an extension of time if he still wishes to pursue his right,” the judge ruled. Going through the plaint, the Plaintiff had alleged that he had entered into contract with the Loans Board in 2006, whereby the latter agreed to pay his school fees for his studies to the Open University for the whole programme of studies.
However, the Board paid only for 2006 and 2007 and stopped thereafter without notifying him. The Plaintiff further stated in his plaint that the termination of the contract by the Board caused him various hardships, including finding the fees to pay from 2008 onwards.
When determining the matter, the judge pointed out that the centre of controversy revolves around the contract entered and that the debt under which the Loans Board claims to owe the Plaintiff emanates from the contract the parties entered.
Therefore, he said, the cause of action arose in 2008 and legally that is when the Plaintiff’s right to sue accrued.
The records show that the Plaintiff instituted the suit on August 18, 2017, which was nine years after the course of action accrued.
“The Law of Limitation Act under item 7 of the first scheduled in section 3 provides that the suit founded on contract is to be instituted within six years since the accrual of the right of action.
It goes therefore that the case at hand, having been filed beyond six years prescribed by law, is time barred,” the judge noted.
During the hearing, the plaintiff argued that the six years’ time limitation lapsed against the Loans Board and was not supposed to deduct from him the claimed loan.
The wanting question, according to the judge, is when did the six years commence. It has been stated that the loan becomes due for recovering after the lapse of the grace period of one year since the student finalizes his studies.
The Plaintiff in the case at hand finalized in year 2010/2011 and thus the six years started in 2011. The deduction was commenced in 2017 February.
Though the completion month wasn’t stated, but going by practice, end of academic year is normally during the middle of the year, between May-August each year.
It was the decision of the court that even if the Plaintiff completed in May 2010 and grace period lapsed in April 2011, still the Board was within time limitation of six years when the deduction started in February 2017 as limitation had started to accrue in May, 2011 and would have lapsed in April, 2017.
When responding on the issue of suit being time barred, the plaintiff had submitted that automatically the debt claimed by the Board from him was also time barred as well and thus it cannot be claimed as the debt resulted from the contract, which both parties had signed.
The counsel for the respondents had reacted to such argument, citing Section 19A (8) of the Higher Education Student’s Loan Board Act, submitting that the provision mandated the Board to recover the loan within 10 years which started to take effect one year after the completion of studies in 2010/2011.
Thus, according to him, when the Board started to deduct the debt from the Plaintiff’s salary, it was well within the time.
In his judicial interpretation, however, the judge pointed out that limitation time of ten years concerns the recovery of the debt through the court proceedings.
He noted that the Loans Board did not institute any recovery proceedings regarding the matter. The judge, therefore, found the cited provision not applicable in the circumstances of the case in question.