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A.U. Deduwa & Ors. v. The State (1975) - CA


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CASE SUMMARY OF:
A.U. Deduwa & Ors. v. The State (1975) - CA
by PaulPipAr

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PARTIES
APPELLANT
A.U. Deduwa & Ors.

v.

RESPONDENTS
The State

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CITATION
(1975) LPELR-SC.424/74;
(1975) 1 All N.L.R 1;
(1975) 2 S.C. 34;

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COURT
Supreme Court of Nigeria

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LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
GEORGE BAPTIST AYODOLA COKER, J.S.C;

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LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
FOR THE APPELLANT
- Dr. M. Odje

FOR THE RESPONDENT
- Mr. A.N.E. Gbemudu

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FACT
The appellants were held for contempt of a High Court sitting at Warri and presided over by Francis Atake, J.
The Appellants during the trial wrote to the registrar of the Court requesting that the matter before the Court be transferred to another Court because the Judge who is presiding is by tribe an Itsekeri, and who is of the same tribe with the opposing party.
However, the Judge on the next day for sitting held them for trying to impugn the integrity of the Court. The Judge asked them to choose either the dock or the witness box to show cause why they should not be held for contempt of court.
They stated as defence that their lawyer did not suggest to them the contents of the letter written to the registrar. However, the Judge did not believe them and instead held them for contempt and sentenced them to 6 months imprisonment with hard labour or a fine of #100.
Against this ruling, the Appellants has appealed.

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ISSUE

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HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI

1. We are satisfied that the ground of appeal argued impugning the propriety of the procedure followed by the learned trial judge in this cases must succeed. We regretfully come to the conclusion, as we undoubtedly conclude, that the conduct and the action of the appellants are depraved in the extreme and that a clearer cases of the foulest form of contempt is hardly imaginable. Our indignation is no less directed against the learned trial judge himself by whose mistake it has been possible for the appellants to escape the punishment which is commensurate with the gravity of their transgressions. The power to commit is not retained for the personal aggrandisement of a judge or whoever mans the court; the powers are created, maintained and retained for the purpose of preserving the honour and the dignity of the court and so the Judge holds the power on behalf of the court and by the tradition of his office he should eschew any type of temperamental outburst as would let him lose his own control of the situation and his own appreciation of the correct method of procedure.
RATIO:
i. In the cases in hand, the learned trial judge did compel the appellants to choose either the witness box or the dock and it is significant that they all chose the witness box. This of course is an outrage on our criminal procedure for the learned trial judge had in the circumstances, with a witness in the witness box and without any other prosecutor, assumed that role in a most irregular inquisition, which is most undignified of a judge of a superior court. At the end of his ruling the learned trial judge stated that he found the appellants guilty but there was no charge and it is manifest that the judge did not deal as he should have dealt with the appellants' brevi manu by asking them into the dock to show cause why they should not be punished for contempt of court and punishing them accordingly.

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REFERENCED
Oswald on Contempt, etc. at page 17;

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SOME PROVISIONS

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NOTABLE DICTA
It was feebly sought to argue by learned counsel for the appellants that the letter Exhibit A cannot ground contempt of the court and that in any cases such a contempt is not a contempt in facie curiae. We are of course unable to accept these arguments. The letter Exhibit A stinks with contempt and the authors of Exhibit A, whoever they may be, could only be aptly described as irresponsible cowards who are prepared to watch meanly other people suffer for the just consequences of their own wrong-doings. - GEORGE BAPTIST AYODOLA COKER, J.S.C. A.U. Deduwa & Ors. v. The State (1975)

It is clear that the contempt of court which a court of record is entitled to deal with brevi manu is not anywhere prescribed in a written law but it is part of the functions which are associated with the inherent jurisdiction of a court of record. - GEORGE BAPTIST AYODOLA COKER, J.S.C. A.U. Deduwa & Ors. v. The State (1975)

In the cases in hand, the learned trial judge did compel the appellants to choose either the witness box or the dock and it is significant that they all chose the witness box. This of course is an outrage on our criminal procedure for the learned trial judge had in the circumstances, with a witness in the witness box and without any other prosecutor, assumed that role in a most irregular inquisition, which is most undignified of a judge of a superior court. At the end of his ruling the learned trial judge stated that he found the appellants guilty but there was no charge and it is manifest that the judge did not deal as he should have dealt with the appellants' brevi manu by asking them into the dock to show cause why they should not be punished for contempt of court and punishing them accordingly. - GEORGE BAPTIST AYODOLA COKER, J.S.C. A.U. Deduwa & Ors. v. The State (1975)

The end of this brief.


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