Country Club Developers (CCD).

The Council of Constitutional Inquiry, the constitutional interpretation advisory body, issued a stay-order on a previous judgment that ruled Country Club Developers (CCD) to deliver disputed houses to the buyers.

CCD filed a complaint with the Council stating the decision given by judges during the court battle with the buyers was in violation of Ethiopia’s constitution. The letter signed by Chief Justice Meaza Ashenafi, president of the 11-member court, on January 28, 2019, reads that until the case is reviewed, the decision passed by the Execution Court for the delivery of the houses to the buyers will be put on hold.

The lawyers of CCD presented the letter from the Council on February 14, 2018, at the Federal High Court Sixth Civil Bench. The judges, after reading the letter, put the previous decision on hold until the Council reviews the case.

The ruling by the Council states that the case should instead have been seen by the Oromia Regional State Supreme Court as the real estate is located in Legetafo. Although some of the litigating parties are non-nationals, which makes it a federal case, the Constitution delegates powers of the Federal High Court to the regional supreme courts, according to CCD’s appeal.

It was stated that the classification of power and jurisdiction of the different courts is laid out in the constitution, making the issue a matter of constitutional interpretation.

The case that led to this dispute began eight years ago when the six home buyers, some of the members of the American diaspora, sued the company calming that it had failed to deliver the homes within a contractually stipulated 18-month schedule.

They stated that the real estate developer terminated their agreements as they declined to sign an amended contract with new terms and conditions.

The home buyers had bought six homes in 2006 and the next year with a price range between 1.7 million Br and 3.1 million Br, in Legatafo, 11Km northeast of the capital from CCD.

The home buyers stated that they were asked to make an additional payment of half a million Birr due to inflationary rise in the cost of construction materials by the real estate company, which was founded in 2002 with a registered capital of 20 million Br.

All the other homebuyers, except the six, refused to make the increased payment and took the case to Federal High Court, during the trial of which CDC had raised its jurisdiction issues as a preliminary objection. But the court took jurisdiction over the cases stating that since it involves foreign nationals the matter should be heard in a federal court.

The court ruled in favour of the homebuyers, ordering the developer to transfer the houses to the buyers according to the terms and conditions of the initial contract. Opposing the ruling, CCD appealed to the Supreme Court, but the judgment of the lower court was sustained.

CCD then took the case to the Court of Cassation where the bench passed a decision that again favoured the home buyers by ordering CCD to deliver the houses to the homebuyers with no price adjustment.

The six homebuyers subsequently appealed to the Execution Court to enforce the judgment in July 2016, for which the developer requested an additional 16 months to finalise and deliver the homes. But, the Court gave the company a deadline of November 2017 to hand over the houses to the judgment creditors.

In January 2019, almost a year after the final deadline elapsed, the home buyers again appealed to the execution court stating that CCD did not deliver the house in the indicated time. They also claimed that the company had failed to finalise and equip the houses with kitchen taps, exhaust hoods, boilers, gates and water and electric utilities.

The court then summoned Mesele Haile (PhD), general manager of the company, who explained that the company was challenged to deliver the houses due to the forex crunch.

After the hearing, the court ordered CCD to equip and deliver the houses by February 14 and the case was adjourned to the February 14 date to ensure that the company had adhered to the ruling. The lawyers though showed up with the injunction from the Council, which means that the delivery decision will now be put on hold until it is reviewed.

If the Council finds that there is a constitutional issue, it will recommend a decision to the House of Federation, which will have the final say.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 16,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 981]

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