2.The Respondent is an auctioneer within the meaning of the term Under Section 2 of the Auctioneers Act. The Appellant is a financial institution, and for the purposes of this Appeal had instructed the Respondent Auctioneer to recover a sum of Kshs 83,211/= from one Norman Mulinge Masila (the debtor).
3 .Vide an application dated June 24, 2020, the Respondent/Auctioneer sought the following orders;-1.That the honorable court be pleased to direct/order that the instructing party /respondent is liable to pay auctioneers charges and expenses arising from execution/repossession done by the auctioneer/applicant.2.That the auctioneer bill of costs dated 24th june,2020 and attached herewith be deemed as properly drawn and filed and the same be taxed and assessed by the taxing master and paid forthwith by the respondent after taxation.3.Costs of the application be provided for.
4.After hearing the submissions of the parties, the learned magistrate allowed the application and taxed the Auctioneers Bill of Costs as drawn.
5.Aggrieved by the decision the Appellant filed a Chamber Summons, the mode provided under Rule 55 (4) of the Auctioneer Rules. The Appellant sought the following orders;-1.That the ruling by the Learned magistrate Honourable H. Onkwani on taxation of the Bill of Costs filed in Miscellaneous Application No 13 of 2020 by the respondent against the appellant herein and dated 11/2/2021 be hereby set aside in its entirety.2.That in the alternative, the bill be reviewed and taxed off or remitted with appropriate directions to a Taxing Officer as the court shall deem fit for reconsideration.3.That the costs of this appeal be provided for.
6.The appeal was canvassed by way of Written Submissions.
14.The Respondents submits that this court ought not to interfere with the finding of the lower court unless it finds that the same is based on no evidence, misapprehension of the evidence or that the trial court applied the wrong principles in reaching its findings.
15.It is submitted that it is clear that a dispute had arisen between the parties as evidenced by the correspondence in the Record of Appeal.
16.It is further submitted that from the material before the court, the Bank itself did confirm that some loans were fraudulently obtained and that the debtors were not able to repay the same. Therefore, the bank was the one rightly meant to pay the auctioneer.
17.That the trial court was bound by the decision in Bungoma HCC No 312 of 2019 which stated that once instructions are halted, the instructing client ought to foot the auctioneer’s fees.
18.It is further argued that service of a proclamation is not a separate step from the entire legal process since once proclaimed the goods are in control of the auctioneer who is therefore entitled to full fees. I was referred to Nbi HCCC No 1818 of 2000, National Industries Credit Bank Limited vs Majani Mingi Sisal Estates Limited and 2 Others.
19.The Respondent further denies the existence of the purported service level agreement between the parties as alluded to by the Appellant. The Respondent further states that the Appellant is introducing new issues that were never raised in the trial court. That no leave has been sought to raise the new issue.
20.Having considered the application I find that the following are the issues for determination;-(a)Whether the learned magistrate had jurisdiction to entertain the Auctioneers Bill of Costs in the absence of a dispute under Rule 55 of the Auctioneer’s Rules.(b)Whether the Respondent was entitled to costs payable by the Appellant.(c )Whether the Bill of Costs as drawn is in accordance with the Law and more specifically the Auctioneers Rules.I will begin with the first issue.
21.Parties have cited Rule 55(2) of the Auctioneers Rules. The same states as follows;-
22.From the Appellant’s point of view, the Auctioneer has never presented a tabulation of her costs. It was their position that no dispute has arisen, as envisaged by law, to warrant the filing of the Bill of Costs in the first place. For that reason, it is argued, the trial court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter.
23.There is no doubt that Rule 55(2) provides that where a dispute arises a magistrate or the board may on the application of any party to the dispute assess the fees payable.
24.The Rules clearly contemplate that a dispute ought to have arisen before the Auctioneer can file his/her Bill of costs. The onus in on the Auctioneer to show the court that such a dispute has arisen. The existence of a dispute ought to be express or can be inferred from the documents before the court.
25.Curiously, despite stating that the Bank was made aware of the auctioneer’s charges, the Auctioneer has not annexed any invoice breaking down her costs to the Bank. The trial court was asked to determine that issue. It referred to a trail of emails and specifically the one dated January 23, 2020.
26.I have looked at the said email, I am not convinced that it amounts to a tabulation of fees payable. The subsequent email dated January 28, 2020 from the Bank does not qualify as a dispute of the fees. It merely asked the Auctioneer to provide a break down of the costs. It also asked the Auctioneers to send a fee note. There is nothing to show that the Auctioneer sent a fee note as requested.
26.Therefore, from my reading of Rule 55(2) of the Auctioneer’s Rules, and in agreement with the Appellant, the filing of the Bill of Costs was premature.
27.In her Ruling the Learned Magistrate stated as follows;
28.The critical words of the trial court were that the High Court assumes jurisdiction yet the court was not sitting as a High Court.
29.The question that begs an answer is whether a magistrate’s court in this case Mavoko Chief Magistrate’s Court, had jurisdiction to entertain the application.
30.From the material before me the instructing bank was Kenya Commercial Bank, Kikima Branch. The debtor in question was based in Kikima, Makueni County. It is thus not clear why the Auctioneer decided to file the Bill of Costs at Mavoko Law Courts, in Machakos County.
31.In my view, reference to a “magistrate” does not mean presenting the bill to any magistrate. An analogy must be drawn to other legal disputes. If the cause of action arose in Kikima ,or the debtor, or the respondent herein was in Kikima, then the court having geographical jurisdiction over Kikima was the one seized of jurisdiction to handle the matter. This is in line with the provisions of Section 15 Of the Civil Procedure Act which provides for the place of filing a suit. It states as follows;-
32.The provisions above are meant to streamline court proceedings and avoid haphazard filing of claims. In this case, though the issue was not canvassed, I find that the bill of costs, if it was necessary in the first place, ought to have been filed either at a Court that exercised jurisdiction over Kikima, where the instructions emanated from, or at Nairobi, where the Banks Head Office is situated and where the contract between the parties was entered into. There is nothing to explain why the bill was presented to Mavoko Law Courts.
33.On the above grounds, I find that the court at Mavoko was not seized of the necessary geographical jurisdiction to entertain the Bill of Costs in the first place.
35.Having made the above findings I don’t think that I need to delve into the other issues which touch on the bill itself. Nevertheless, the court is obligated to determine the same in the event that my finding on jurisdiction is overturned.
36.The Appellant has referred to a service level agreement which was denied by the Respondent. Annexed to the Replying Affidavit was a copy of the document duly executed by both sides. The Respondent disowned the same yet their signature and stamp appears on it. It is my considered view that the Agreement was in force at the time of issuance of instructions on May 22, 2019. The Auctioneer cannot purport to dismiss it.
37.As for the specific items on the bill, I will refrain from addressing them since this may unfairly influence the court that will be seized of this matter after the disposal of this appeal.
38.After considering the Appeal, the submissions filed, I find that this is a case where the court is entitled to review the orders of the trial court. This is based on the issue of jurisdiction of the court to entertain the Bill of Costs in the first place. Subsequently, I allow the appeal and direct that:-a.The Auctioneer shall forward his/her fee note/invoice to the Bank for consideration.b.In the event of a dispute as envisaged under the Rules, the Auctioneer is at liberty to file his Bill of costs in a court of competent jurisdiction or before the Auctioneers Licensing Board.c.The Appellant shall have the costs of this Appeal.