A judgment made in open courtroom takes impact when it’s made and never when it’s subsequently sealed. The lapse of time between the making of an order in open courtroom and sealing it could be taken by the unsuccessful get together as a chance to rehearse authorized arguments or to supply new proof to steer the courtroom to revisit and amend its order earlier than it’s sealed.

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In AIC Ltd v The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria [2020] EWCA Civ 1585 the Courtroom of Enchantment offered steering on the proper method the courts ought to take when figuring out an software to rethink an order earlier than it’s sealed.

Details and first occasion choice

On 6 December 2018, AIC Ltd (AIC), a Nigerian building and property growth firm, made an software to the Excessive Courtroom to implement a Nigerian arbitration award of over $48m towards the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), an airport-operating company. Nevertheless, earlier than the order was sealed, the choose rescinded AIC’s proper to implement the award on the grounds that there had been a major change in circumstances in that FAAN had obtained a assure for safety for prices. The choose additionally granted FAAN reduction from sanctions for failing to adjust to numerous deadlines. AIC appealed the reconsidered order, asserting that the choose had no discretion to rethink her order as a result of, though it had not been sealed at that stage, it had been pronounced in open courtroom and due to this fact took impact instantly.

Courtroom of Enchantment choice

Permitting the attraction, Coulson LJ held that there have been two distinct questions which the courtroom should ask itself. The primary was whether or not the applying to rethink ought to be entertained in precept; if the courtroom answered the query within the destructive, that was the tip of the matter. If the courtroom concluded that reconsideration was acceptable in precept, then it turned an open-ended matter of discretion, to be exercised in accordance with the overriding goal, as as to if the order ought to be modified. Coulson LJ offered additional steering on first query when he stated: ‘In my opinion, the courtroom ought to be searching for a sufficiently compelling purpose that will justify reconsideration; one thing which could outweigh the significance of finality and justify the opening up of a query or questions which, following the pronouncement of the order in open courtroom, appeared to have been lastly answered. After all, it’s fairly proper to say, because the authorities stress, that these classes of case aren’t closed. However, assuming that the request to rethink comes from the events and never the courtroom, the courtroom ought to instinctively be searching for one thing which has been missed or in any other case gone awry: a mistake or a basic misapprehension; a basic piece of proof or some extent of legislation that was neglected. The courtroom’s undoubted jurisdiction to rethink its earlier order can’t be permitted to grow to be a gateway for a second spherical of wide-ranging debate.’

Coulson LJ held that the choose had failed to contemplate whether or not the applying recognized a sufficiently compelling purpose for the courtroom to entertain an software to rethink the 6 December order which had been an error of legislation. To the extent that it could be stated that the choose had recognized the numerous change in circumstances because the compelling purpose for entertaining the applying, she had been mistaken as a matter of reality. The arrival of the assure was not a major change in circumstances however merely the end result of what FAAN had been saying in its proof for a while, which had been taken under consideration when the 6 December order was made.

Leaving apart the error of precept, Coulson LJ additionally discovered that the choose had did not have in mind issues which she must have taken under consideration, and gave weight to different issues which have been irrelevant. Due to this fact, this was a case by which interference with the train of the choose’s discretion was justified.

Though AIC Ltd involved an software for enforcement of an arbitral award, its software is of broader significance as a result of it’s relevant to any functions for reconsideration of courtroom orders made in civil proceedings. When contemplating an software to rethink, the courts want to make sure that their jurisdiction should, as Coulson LJ put it, be ‘rigorously patrolled’ in order that the precept of finality in litigation shouldn’t be undermined.


Masood Ahmed is an affiliate professor on the College of Leicester and a member of the Civil Process Rule Committee