Anisminic Ltd v Foreign Compensation Commission [1969]

English company owning
property in Egypt had that property sequestrated by Egyptian authorities.
Sequestrator then sold
property to TEDO, an Egyptian organisation.
Anisminic put pressure on
customers not to buy from TEDO.
This pressure resulted in
TEDO purchasing company from Anisminic at knock-down price.
Treaty then made between UK
and UAR provided for return of sequestrated property, except property sold between
Oct 56 and Aug 58 (which included the sale to TEDO).
Cash sum paid by UAR in
respect of unreturned property.
Orders in Council set out
conditions for participation in fund.
Orders stated applicant and
successor in title should be British nationals as at certain dates.
FCC found TEDO, successor in
title, was not Brit national at relevant dates, so Anisminic did not qualify.
Anisminic contended FCC had
misconstrued Orders and sought declaration that decision was a nullity.
So basically question of law arose
– was issue of nationality of successor in title relevant?
House of Lords found for
appellant Anisminic.
decided distinction between questions of law which did and those which did not
go to jurisdiction was to an extent unnecessary, although not clear to what
held that what would traditionally have been non-jurisdictional error of law
could in fact go to jurisdiction.
Lord Reid – Sometimes said
that it is only when tribunal acts without jurisdiction that its decision is a
But this is to use term
‘jurisdiction’ in very wide sense.
Jurisdiction, in narrow
sense, means only that tribunal be entitled to enter upon the inquiry.
But having correctly begun
inquiry, tribunal could do number of things which rendered its decision a
nullity, eg failing to deal with the question submitted to it, failure to take account
of relevant considerations and asking the wrong question.
FCC construed Orders as
requiring them to inquire, when applicant himself was original owner, whether
he had a successor in title.
But on true construction of
order, claimant who is original owner does not have to prove anything about
successors in title.
Hence FCC made inquiry which
the Orders did empower them to make.
Decision by FCC a nullity.
[Lord Reid’s judgment
significantly broadened scope of review, because court, if it wished to
interfere, could always characterise an alleged error as having resulted from
asking the wrong question, etc.