Retroactivity of Cassation Decisions
Getachew Deyas & Fantu Tesfaye v. Rukiya Kedir Cassation File No. 68573
Federal Supreme Court Cassation File No. 68573 (March 21, 2012)
Holding of the Court:
The interpretation in the decision of the Federal Supreme Court Cassation Division shall not retroactively apply to cases that were decided based the Cassation Division’s earlier interpretation even where the Division has changed its interpretation in a later case.
Proclamation No. 454/2005, Article 2
Cassation File No. 68573 Megabit 12, 2004 E.C. (March 21, 2012)
Federal Supreme Court Cassation Division
Justices:Teshager G/Selassie, Almaw Wolie, Ali Mohammed, Nega Dufesa,
Petitioner: Getachew Deyas & Fentu Tesfaye
Respondents: Rukia Kedir
This cassation case involves the applicability and interpretation of Article 2 of Proclamation No. 454/2005 (Federal courts Proclamation Re-amendment Proclamation). The present petitioners were sellers in a contract of sale of a house on Tir 24, 1999 E.C. (February 2, 2006) and they were litigating parties in File No. 05508 over the issue whether the contract should be invalidated. Adama Zone Liyu Zone High Court decided that contract of sale of immovables which is not made at a notary or court shall not be valid, and decided that this contract is invalid by citing the decision of the Federal Supreme Court Cassation Division in File No. 21448.
After the decision of the High Court, the current petitioner has filed a suit at Adama Liyu Zone High Court requesting that the parties be reinstated in the position which would have existed had the contract not been made.
The buyer of the house (present respondent) argued that the Federal Supreme Court Cassation Division has rendered a decision in File No. 36887, on Tahsas 10, 2001 EC (December 20, 2008). The court (on May 27, 2010, File No. 06799) reiterated its earlier position that the decision was rendered based on the FSC Cassation Division’s decision (File No. 21448) on a similar issue. It stated that decision has been rendered over the issue under consideration and the only issue that can be litigated upon is the issue of reinstatement. The court decided that the contract was found to be invalid during the earlier litigation, and the request for the validity of the contract cannot be raised by invoking a different interpretation rendered by the FSC Cassation Division in File No. 36887.
However, Oromia Supreme Court reversed the decision upon appeal by stating that even if the lower court’s decision was correct when it was rendered, the decision of the FSC Cassation Division on Tahsas 18, 2001 (December 28, 2008) states that such contracts are valid as long as the contract is not denied by the parties. The Supreme Court held that as long as the FSC Cassation Division has changed its interpretation, lower court interpretations of the issue should also be changed, thereby deciding that the contract for the sale of the house should not be invalidated. Oromia Supreme Court Cassation Division confirmed the Supreme Court’s decision.
We have examined the case. According to Article 90(3) of the FDRE Constitution and Federal Courts Establishment Proclamation No. 25/1996, the purpose of enabling the FSC Cassation Division decisions to have binding effect in interpretation is to enhance consistency in the judicial interpretation of laws. Articles 2 ff of Proclamation No. 454/2005 thus bind lower courts to pursue the interpretation rendered by the FSC Cassation Division on similar issues. This binding interpretation applies on courts where the FSC Cassation Division has rendered a decision on the interpretation of a similar issue. Adama Liyu Zone High Court has accordingly pursued the interpretation of the FSC Cassation Divsion based on Article 2 of Proclamation No. 25/1996.
Where the Federal Supreme Court Cassation Division renders an interpretation which is different from its earlier decision, the latter interpretation only applies to cases that are filed after the decision or that have not yet been decided at courts of first instance. Proclamation No. 454/2005 does not allow courts to re-adjudicate cases that have already been decided based on the previous binding interpretation of the FSC Cassation Division. The purpose of the law is to render consistency to
judicial interpretation where an issue is decided by the FSC Cassation Division, and it is not meant to allow revisiting cases that have been decided after the exhaustion of all adjudication procedures. This disturbs stability and exposes litigants to an unpredictable judicial system. We have thus found that the decisions of Oromia Supreme Court Appellate Bench and the Region’s Cassation Division have fundamental errors of law in the application of Proclamation No. 454/2005.
1.The decision rendered by the Oromia Supreme Court Appellate Bench File No. 106340 dated Tir 10, 2003 EC (October 19, 2010) and confirmed by the Region’s Supreme Court Cassation Division File No. 124793 (on Megabit 19, 2003 EC, i.e. March 28, 2011) is reversed.
2.The decision of Oromia Liyu Zone High Court’s decision, File No. 06799 dated Ginbot 19, 2002 EC (May 27, 2010) is confirmed.
3.The decision rendered by Adama Liyu Zone on Sene 23, 2003 EC (June 30, 2011) File No. 05508 was given in accordance with Article 2 of Proclamation No. 454/2005 and should be considered as the final judgment because there is no valid procedure which allows readjudication and review. ...
Signature of five justices