Guide to Judicial Review Jurisdiction of Federal Courts
Do courts in Ethiopia have an inherent power to review the legality of administrative actions? Most legal scholars in Ethiopia are strong adherents of the ‘inherent power’ approach arguing that courts have inherent power to review acts of administrative agencies. However, such an argument is unpalatable to the Cassation Bench. In one case submitted to the bench (Ethiopian privatization and public enterprises supervising agency Vs. heirs of Ato Nur Beza, Casation File Number 23608 date Hidar 3-2000 E.C.) it was held that the source of judicial power in Ethiopia is statute. Courts do not have inherent judicial power and there is no legal framework governing the judicial review of administrative actions.
In spite of the strong words of the bench, not all cases involving judicial review of administrative action are rejected for lack of ‘inherent’ judicial power. When a directive was challenged on the ground of ultra-virus (beyond power) neither the lower courts nor the cassation bench rejected the legal action on procedural grounds i.e. lack of inherent judicial power or the absence a legal framework governing the judicial review of administrative actions (See Ethiopian National Bank Vs. 1. Hibret Insurance Company 2.Mr. Eyesuswork Zafu 3. Mr. Workeshet Bekele Demisie Cassation File Number 44226 Date Tahesa 15-2003 E.C.) The Federal First Instance Court invalidated some provisions of the directive and its decision was affirmed by the appellate Federal High Court. Both decisions of the lower courts were overturned by the Cassation Bench, but unlike the Ethiopian privatization case (Casation File Number 23608) it was not on procedural grounds. On substantive grounds the bench stated that the issuance of the directive is within the scope of power of the Bank.
Now, let’s leave the issue of inherent judicial power of review and turn to statutory review. To what extent is statutory review available in Ethiopia? In general terms, a legal framework governing the judicial review of administrative actions (if that is to mean a single statute governing judicial review of administrative actions) is not yet available. However, different legislations clearly provide for reviewable administrative actions including which specific court has a power of review. These legislations are scattered here and there making it difficult to determine the scope of power of courts and the extent of availability of review.
What follows is a summary of legal provisions providing statutory review. I have tried to make the list comprehensive. Please let me know if a relevant proclamation is not included.
Finally, as you can see there four categories;
- Federal first Instance Court
- Federal High Court
- Federal Supreme Court and
- Regular Courts.
The reference to regular courts is due to the lack of clarity of the statute. When the law says “An employee aggrieved by the administrative decision of the top management may present his case to the regular courts” it is difficult to be certain as to which court it is referring to. For this reason, I created a 4th category, leaving it to ‘readers’ discretion’ of interpretation.
Click on the links below or the numbers at the bottom to go to a specific page.