By Anne Mugisa
The government has been ordered to pay sh12.9bn in costs to a city lawyer who blocked Parliament from forcing Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and other Ministers to step down for investigations into the oil bribery allegations.
President Museveni says the allegations by MP Gerald Karuhanga (Independent) were false, but the parliamentary committee that was headed by Michael Werikhe has to date not presented its report.
Severino Twinobusingye dragged the Attorney General to the Constitutional Court following resolutions by Parliament requiring Mbabazi to step aside. The five judges on the Coram declared those declarations null and void in February last year and awarded Twinobusingye two-thirds of the costs with a certificate for two counsel.
The other Ministers are Sam Kutesa of Foreign Affairs and Hillary Onek formerly Minister of Energy and Minerals and now Internal Affairs Minister.
Twinobusingye contended that Parliament denied the said Ministers fair hearing before passing a resolution to try and force them to step aside, which was unconstitutional.
The judges included then Deputy Chief Justice Alice Mpagi-Bahingeine, Steven Kavuma, Augustine Nshimye, Stella Arach Amoko and Remmy Kasule.
Asking for the costs before the Registrar, Eriasi Kisawuzi, , Twinobusingye's lawyers, John Mary Mugisha and Chris Bakiza argued that the petition had been quite complex, entailing extensive research, study of national regional and international authorities or judicial precedents from other courts. They listed the list of authorities and commentaries. Mugisha asked for sh12bn as the leading counsel and sh8b for Bakiza as assisting counsel.
State Attorneys George Kalemera and Daniel Gantungo had opposed the amount asked for by Twinobusigye's lawyers saying that the matter was not as difficult and involving as Twinobusingye's lawyers said. Kalemera said that it even took less than four hours to conclude and proposed sh30m as costs.
The Registrar said that there are principles governing taxation which include that: the costs cannot be allowed to raise to such levels as to confine access to court for the wealthy; the general level remuneration for advocates must be such to attract recruits to the profession; that so far as practical, there should be consistence in the awards and; that the changes in price levels of inflation should be taken into account.
According to Kisawuzi, the court rules also say that that fee to be allowed shall be a sum that the taxing officer considers reasonable, having regard to the amount involved in the appeal, its nature, importance and difficulty, the interest of the parties and other costs to be allowed, the general conduct of the proceedings, the fund or person to bear the costs and all other relevant circumstances
He observed that this was a matter of importance and timely for maintenance of the rule of law, constitutional harmony and peace in the country.
"Indeed this petition was one of its own kind, given the novel issues on Parliamentary democracy and constitutionalism it involved," Kisawuzi ruled.
"For the first time an injunction was issued against Parliament setting precedent that the judiciary has powers to interfere or question methods of internal management of running of affairs of Parliament, which, was never before. Both counsel convinced court that this case was of great magnitude and entailing a lot of professional responsibility to prepare and prosecute the same where part of research was not obtainable in the local jurisdiction. I find the sh30m proposed by learned counsel for the respondent as rather low. Considering all the relevant circumstances and principles governing taxation, I find a sum of sh20bn as proposed reasonable and two thirds thereof would put the total instruction fees to sh13bn shillings which I reduce to sh11bn. This will attract 18% VAT as required by law.
Regarding other claims and disbursements, they are accordingly taxed as indicated in the bill of costs."
John Mary Mugisha, confirmed the development and referred New Vision to the registrar (Kisawuzi) for details.
When contacted, Kisawuzi said he was busy handling another case and could not comment on the matter.
Twinobusingye who appeared reluctant to discuss the issue, said however that "this should show Parliament that its behaviour can be very costly. Parliament should be careful to avoid causing loss to the Government…,"
Attempts to contact the Attorney General for comment were futile.