In 2008, Tirupati Development Limited applied for allocation of land from Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) and the request was granted in 2011. In a later dated 26th June 2012, UIA gave Tirupati an invoice to pay the premium for the land. Tirupati paid the sum.
The land in question is located at Kyagwe Block 113 Plots No. A019 and A020 situated at Namanve - Kiwanga-Mawutu, Nantabulirwa, Goma Division, Mukono Municipality, Mukono district. It measures approximately 1.5 acres and 10 acres respectively.
Through letters dated 28th October 2010 and 5th January 2011, UIA authorized the Commissioner Land Registration to provide surveying services on behalf of Tirupati in respect of the two plots and the Tirupati paid land fees for the surveying to be conducted.
Also, through a letter dated 17th September 2022, UIA granted permission to Tirupati to take possession of the suit land by fencing and grading it which was done.
After taking possession of the suit land, Tirupati started the process of developing the land by conducting the survey works, obtaining NEMA clearance certificate, obtaining development and building plans which needed certificate of land title before being approved.
However, on several occasions, Tirupati demanded to be given a land tittle to start developing the land but UIA refused to date. Instead, UIA in a fraudulent manner started on a process to allocate the land Tirupati paid for to other parties. This forced Tirupati to go to court for redress.
To seek redress, a case, Civil Suit No. 335 of 2021 in the high court of Uganda at Mukono, was registered with Tirupati Development (U) Limited as the Plaintiff and Uganda Investment Authority and the defendant. And on Friday, 21st July 2023, before Justice Florence Nakachwa, a ruling was been made with the plaintiff coming out victorious.
According to the ruling, the defendant neither filled its written statement of defence nor entered physical appearance in court despite effective service of court process.
In the case, Tirupati was represented by Counsel Pamba Egan of M/S Opwonya & Co. Advocates and later under Trust Law Advocates. Lawyers representing Tirupati filed the plaintiff's written submissions in court on 13th December 2022.
The case sought to address two issues; whether Uganda Investment Authority is in breach of the lease of agreement it executed with the Tirupati and whether there are remedies available for Tirupati, the plaintiff.
Leasehold is one of the land tenure systems in which land may be owned in Uganda as stipulated under Article 237 (3) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 and Section 2 of the Land Act, Cap 227 as amended.
During the trial, the directors of Tirupati provided evidence proving that the lease transaction; including payment of Shs7, 000, 000 as fees to procure a NEMA Certificate. Justice Nakachwa reveals in the ruling that Tirupati also procured architectural plans for the intended project.
She explains that UIA was well aware of the proceeding developments of the suit land but refused to issue the land tittles to the plaintiff with the intentions of unlawfully and illegally taking away the plaintiff's land and allocate it to third parties.
Tirupati denied access on the suit land
A witness told court that since 2014, Tirupati was denied access to the suit land and that UIA instructed its agents not to allow the plaintiff access the land. Because of this, Tirupati's efforts to develop the land were futile and hindered.
The witness added that due to UIA's actions, Tirupati has lost business and money invested in the project and suffered huge inconveniences and income that would have been earned.
"In the present case, the evidence adduced especially the correspondences from the defendant to the plaintiff clearly shows that the lease agreement was concluded in or around 2011/2012 and the plaintiff was given a go ahead to develop the suit land," the ruling reads in part.
"The evidence on record further shows that the plaintiff requested for the land tittle in order to register its lease hold title but to-date it has not been handed over the defendant. This has frustrated its continuance to develop and use the suit land for its business or investment,"
"The defendant's refusal to handover the land tittle to the plaintiff to enable it have its name registered as the lease hold owner of the land and later withdrawing the plaintiff’s possession of the suit land, in essence means the defendant defaulted in fulfilling its obligation under the lease agreement to give vacant possession of the said land to the plaintiff as it was required. This failure has deprived the plaintiff of its leasehold ownership of the suit land and thus puttingn the plaintiff's activities on the suit land at a stand-still,"
UIA gives suit land to Creston Properties
The ruling by Justice Nakachwa indicates that court summoned the Commissioner Land Registration to give a proprietorship status of the suit land and on 23rd March 2023, Joshua Twagiramungu testified and submitted a letter dated 30th February 2023 from the Commissioner Land Registration clarifying the current status of the land.
According to the letter addressed to court, the suit land is now registered as Kyaggwe Block 113 Plots 3695, 3736 in the names of Creston Properties Limited. Furthermore, an initial lease agreement was signed between Uganda Investment Authority and Creston Properties Limited on 22/8/2014 and a 49 lease agreement signed on 26th June 2020.
On the 23rd day of March 2023, court visited the land and found that the suit land was being developed by Creston Properties Limited and the land was cordoned off using corrugated iron sheets. Old stumps with the names of the Tirupati could be seen.
"In my judgment, the defendant's actions clearly amounts to breach of contract to which the defendant must be held liable,"
"The plaintiff has proved to the satisfaction of the court that it validly entered into a lease agreement with the defendant which has been breached by the defendant.
The final ruling
After taking into account all the evidence and arguments presented, Justice Nakachwa ruled that, "In the instant case, the plaintiff being the successful party is entitled to the costs of the suit. Having found both issues in the plaintiff's favour, judgment is hereby entered for the plaintiff and I hold that the defendant is in breach of the lease agreement between it and the plaintiff,"