Q&A – 17 December 2018

Interpretation of laws by Courts

How are laws interpreted by Courts? I am studying law and find it quite interesting on how Courts resort to different ways of interpreting laws that may not be clear. What are the guiding principles and how are these generally applied?
KF, Dar es Salaam

According to various books, authors, judgments and the like there are some settled principles of interpretation which can be summarized as follows: (i) the Court must start with a presumption that the legislature did not make a mistake (ii) the Court must adopt a construction which will carryout the obvious intention of the legislature, and (iii) if there is a defect or an omission in the word used by the legislature, the Court should generally not go beyond its aid to correct or make up the deficiency.

According to various authorities, the Court should not add words to a statute or read words into it which are not there, especially when the literal reading produces on intelligible result. Only when it becomes necessary to prevent a provision from being, unintelligible, absurd, unreasonable, unworkable, or totally irreconcilable with the rest of the statute, words may be added, altered or modified.

These are the guiding principles of statute interpretation and Courts generally do not interfere with making the law and would normally read the law and literally interpret it.

TRA threaten to publish defaulter name in newspaper

I have had serious issues with the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) and admit that I have not always been compliant. The TRA is threatening to publish my name as a defaulter in the newspapers. Do they have such a right and how can I stop them from doing so?
GJ, Moshi

TRA have wide powers under the Tax Administration Act and the regulations in as far as tax compliance is concerned. Rule 97 of the regulations states that (1) any person who is liable to pay tax under any tax law shall pay such tax on or before the due date as provided for under the relevant law. (2)  Any person who (a)fails to pay tax after being notified by the Commissioner General more than twice of his obligation to pay the due date tax; (b) have been convicted of an offence under a tax law and the time for appeal against such conviction has expired; or (c) within two years has thrice committed compounding offence, shall be published in a newspaper or any media of a wide circulation within the United Republic of Tanzania. (3) Notwithstanding the provisions of subregulation (2), the Commissioner General may publish list of offenders as he may deem proper.

Regulation 98 further states that where the Commissioner General publishes a list of offenders under regulation 97(3) he may specify the following: (a) the name, Taxpayer Identification Number and the address of a tax payer; (b) the offence committed; (c) the period during which the offence committed; (d) the amount of tax involved; and (e) particulars of any fine or sentence imposed.

Whilst you can file an application at the Tax Revenue Appeals Board to try and stop TRA from advertising your name, chances of succeeding are not high as you have admitted that you are not very compliant. We recommend that you ensure compliance and administratively resolve this with the TRA. The TRA are only doing their jobs as provided for under the tax laws.

Contempt of Court

What constitutes contempt under the Penal Code and what is the penalty?
YU, Dodoma

Contempt is widely defined under the Penal Code and the judge has quite a discretion on how to approach this. Section 114 of the Penal Code states that any person who (a) within the premises in which any judicial proceeding is being had or taken, or within the precincts of the same shows disrespect, in speech or manner, to or with reference to such proceeding, or any person before whom such proceeding is being had or taken; or (b) having been called upon to give evidence in a judicial proceeding, fails to attend or, having attended, refuses to be sworn or to make an affirmation, or having been sworn or affirmed, refuses without lawful excuse to answer a question or to produce a document or other thing, or remains in the room in which such proceeding is being had or taken, after the witnesses have been ordered to leave such room; or (c) causes an obstruction or disturbance in the course of a judicial proceeding; or (d)  while a judicial proceeding is pending, publishes, prints or makes use of any speech or writing, misrepresenting such proceeding, or capable of prejudicing any person in favour of or against any parties to such proceeding, or calculated to lower the authority of any person before whom such proceeding is being had or taken; or (e)  publishes a report of the evidence taken in any judicial proceeding which has been directed to be held in private; or  (f)  attempts wrongfully to interfere with or influence a witness in a judicial proceeding, either before or after he has given evidence, in connection with such evidence; or  (g)  dismisses a servant because he has given evidence on behalf of a certain party to a judicial proceeding; or  (h) wrongfully retakes possession «of any land or other property from any person who has recently obtained judgment from a court for the recovery of possession of such land or property; or (hh) wrongfully retakes possession of any child from any person who has obtained the custody of such child under an order of the court; or (hhh) having the means to pay any sums by way of compensation or costs or otherwise-in civil or criminal proceedings awarded against him by a primary court, wrongfully refuses or neglects after due notice to make such payment in accordance with any order for payment whether by instalments or otherwise; or (i) commits any other act of intentional disrespect to any judicial proceeding, or to any person before whom such proceeding is being had or taken is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for six months or to a fine not exceeding five hundred shillings.

The Judge has an option of sending you in for 6 months or fine you TZS 500 for contempt. If you are a first offender, it is likelier than not that you can get away with paying TZS 500. Your lawyers can guide you further.