By Andante Okanya
COURT is on May 20, scheduled to rule on whether to stop presentation of the national budget, as demanded by a legislator and activists who are protesting a cut in the Universal Primary Education (UPE) capitation grant.
On Wednesday, assistant registrar of the civil division of the High Court in Kampala Eleanor Khainza, set the date after lawyers had concluded their arguments.
The ruling could determine whether the Finance minister Maria Kiwanuka national budget, will go ahead with the budget presentation expected mid-next month.
The activists are protesting the planned reduction of the UPE capitation grants from sh7,560 to sh6,800 per pupil in the financial year 2014/2015.
On May 2, Kalungu County West MP Joseph Ssewungu Gonzaga, and Initiative for Social and Economic Rights and the legislator filed a civil suit, against Government. Government chief legal adviser the Attorney General (AG) listed as the defendant.
Subsequently on May 6, they filed an application to block the reading of the budget, pending the dispose of the main case that is scheduled for hearing on June 30 by Justice Stephen Musota.
Capitation grants are funds paid to primary and post primary schools and are based on the number of pupils in the schools.
The activists are demanding that the Finance ministry reverses the proposed UPE capitation grant fund cut.
The AG’s representative senior state attorney Henry Oluka, asked court to dismiss the bid, saying it would ground government machinery to a halt.
“If this court were to grant an order, that action would amount to taking wheels off the vehicle of government in its drive to provide services,” Oluka stated.
Prior, lawyers from Centre for Legal Aid Isaac Semakadde and Eron Kiiza, representing the applicants, had submitted that Government cannot suffer irreparable damage in the event that the court temporarily block the budget reading until the merits of the main case are heard.
But Oluka said the magnitude of bringing Government machinery to a halt, cannot be compensated for, even by award of damages, as programmes are based on strict timelines.
He said court orders must be capable of enforcement and of a practical effect. Oluka dismissed the notion that there is a status quo to protect.
He said the applicants were being speculative on Government’s intention, and that their demand was not premised on a clear event.
However, Semakadde and Kiiza said Government had “misunderstood and ill-appreciated” the activists’ intentions.
Kiiza said the case is one of human rights enforcement and of public interest. Semakadde stated that the activists’ agenda was devoid of any mischief.