By Anne Mugisa and Hillary Nsambu
The Anti-Corruption Court stays. The Constitutional Court ruled by a majority, four judges to one dissenting, that the Court is legal.
The ruling ends a six months freeze on the trials of corruption cases pending the resolution of this petition on the Constitutionality of the anti-corruption court with magistrates annexed to it. According to the IGG, at least 120 graft cases were frozen, with the DPP alone, due to the petition that paralysed the graft Court.
The petition was taken to the Constitutional Court by a City lawyer, Davis Wesley Tusingwire. He sought a declaration that the Anti-corruption was Court Unconstitutional. He was represented by Fred Muwema and Richard Mulema-Mukasa.
The lead judgment affirming the graft Court was read by Justice Solome Balungi Bbosa. Justices, Remmy Kasule, Geoffrey Kiryabwire and Lillian Tibatemwa concurred with her. Deputy Chief Justice, Steven Kavuma, however, dissented and faulted the former Chief Justice’s establishment of the magistrate’s Court in the Anti-Corruption Court saying it was unconstitutional.
Kavuma said that the chief Justice’s action had the effect of illegally transforming Magistrates into judges by giving them unlimited territorial jurisdiction. He said that can only be done by legislation which is a duty of the legislature not the Chief justice. He reasoned that it is only the High Court and Courts above it that have unlimited territorial jurisdiction.
He said that the Chief Justice’s action distorted the structure of the High Court and interfered with its constitutional make-up and created confusion and denied the accused fair trial.
In her ruling, however, Bbosa said the Chief Justice acted well within his mandate when he deployed the Magistrates Court to handle some corruption cases. She said that the Magistrates never handle cases meant for judges. She said evidence shows that the magistrates clearly handled cases that are under their jurisdiction.
She said that the Chief Justice has authority to deploy a magistrate to any magisterial areas in Uganda and that the magistrates can “sit in any place within the local limits of the magisterial areas” and that the Chief Justice can designate any area for magisterial jurisdiction.
Justice Bbosa said that the petitioners failed to prove any breach by the Chief Justice. She said that The Chief Justice’s action was intended to effectively handle the widespread corruption which is having serious economic and social consequences on the country through hemorrhaging of funds. She noted that CJ’s action was administrative to improve the administration of justice in the anti-corruption court and conformed with the Constitution and Anti-Corruption Act.
“There is no merit in the petition. There is no merit in claims of derogation of fair hearing of the accused. These are generalized attacks of all magistrates Court in the Anti-Corruption court…. I dismiss the petition. I give no remedies to the petitioner and order that the petitioner pays costs to the respondents.