High Court Judge Dr. Andrew Bashaija has ruled that it is illegal for Parliament and its committees to review and scrutinize court orders and judgments.
“No Constitutional power resides in Parliament or Committees to call to itself for review or scrutiny the decisions of courts of law. To do so would be for Parliament to constitute itself into the appellate body over decisions of courts and usurp such powers not vested in the legislature,” the judge ruled on Monday.
The court decision followed a case in which three persons, Jamada Baligobye, Augustine Ceaser Luseesa, and John M Nsubuga accused the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of overstepping its mandate when it sought to be availed, for review purposes, details of mandamus orders.
On August 26, 2019, PAC also asked for dates of determination, lawyers involved, presiding judges and amounts involved.
Through their lawyers, the Chairperson PAC was jointly sued with the Attorney General, the SG and the Permanent Secretary/ Secretary to the Treasury in the finance ministry.
Justice Bashaija ruled the deliberations, discussions, and requisitions for scrutiny by PAC in the proceedings of August 22, 2019, in regard to payment of court awards and mandamus orders amounts to interference with the execution of court orders and are illegal and affront of the independence of the judiciary.
“A declaration doth issue that the directions, requisitions, orders and or decision by the chairperson of PAC in the proceedings to be availed details of mandamus payments for scrutiny and reviewing including case determination dates, lawyers involved, presiding judges of court awards amounts to interference with execution orders, is contemptuous, illegal, ultra vires, unconstitutional and a direct affront of the doctrine of separation of powers,” the court held.
The court quashed the August 22, 2019 orders, decisions of PAC requiring the submission of court execution orders and other details.
The judge also prohibited the chairperson of PAC from deliberating, reviewing and seeking to approve or direct on payments of court awards and interfering in any way whatsoever with the execution of court orders.
“An injunction doth issue restraining the respondent, Parliament, and all state organs from reviewing/scrutinizing, investigating, deliberating, discussing, seeking to approve and or interfering in any way whatsoever with the execution of court orders and or payment under court awards,” the court-ordered.
Court decision a big blow to Cosase:
In his legal opinion to Finance Permanent Secretary Keith Muhakanizi on August 15, 2019, the Attorney General William Byaruhanga said Departed Asian properties, whose status had been pronounced by the court could not be subjected to a further Parliament inquiry.
The Attorney General was responding to a letter by the Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board that is laying claim to Plot 98-104 Nakivubo Road, which belongs to Hajji Abdu Kasai, a businessman.
Last year, property mogul Sudhir Ruparelia also protested the move by Parliament to investigate how he acquired a property in the city even when the High Court ruled that he genuinely acquired it.
The Parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) is currently investigating suspected fraud syndicate in acquisition of 460 Departed Asians Properties.
The Cosase subcommittee is chaired by Makindye East legislator Ibrahim Kasozi.
Officials from the Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board listed Plot 24 on Kampala Road, which belongs to Meera Investments Limited, as part of the properties suspected to have been wrongly acquired.
In his August 14 petition to the Speaker, the Ruparelia Group Chairman said inclusion of plot 24 Kampala Road is contempt of Court because the matter was conclusively handled.
“We have followed part of the ongoing Cosase inquiry regarding Departed Asians properties Custodian through televised and print media. A property that belongs to Meera Investment Limited has been mentioned as part of the inquiry,” he said.
“Cosase is now inquiring into a matter and ownership decided upon by the High Court in 2012. We are seeking clarification and guidance from you whether Parliament can inquire into a matter where a decision of court has been made or where a matter is in court. Then whenever matters in court come to an end, parties can come to parliament for another decision.”
Sudhir asked for clarification and guidance from the Speaker whether Parliament could inquire into a matter where decision of Court has been made or when a matter is in Court .
“Then whenever matters in court come to an end , parties can come to Parliament for another decision We shall be grateful for our guidance.”
On December 20, 2012, Justice Joseph Murangira at the High Court at Kampala Land Division declared Sudhir under his Meera Investment Limited as the rightful owner of the land.
Prior, DAPCB had taken a decision that Sudhir was not the the owner of Plot 24 Kampala Road thus stopping him from developing the land in question.
The decision forced Sudhir through his by then lawyers Nangwala, Rezida & Co. Advocates to run to Court asking it to quash the decisions that had been taken by DAPCB.
In his ruling, Justice Murangira said Sudhir/Meera Investment was in possession of the property since 1994 when he purchased it until it was subjected to the repossession process of properties that were expropriated when Asians were expelled from Uganda in 1972.
“Meera Investment approached the former owners (Rameshchandra Bhowan Kataria and the late Kershavlal Premchard Shah) before they were granted a certificate of repossession and they agreed to sell their estate and interest that is the property. Indeed they sold and transferred to Meera,” the Judge said.
He further said DAPCB expressly recognized Meera Investment’s intention to purchase the property from the former owners before repossession.
“This is reflected in the respondent’s letter dated January 5, 1995 (repossession certificate is dated March 31, 1995) signed by Mr Sam S. Male who has now made a u-turn in the respondent’s affidavit in reply.”
“The above stated facts were not challenged by the respondents in his affidavit in reply to the application. The facts therefore are taken to have been admitted by the respondents.”
In conclusion, Justice Murangira ruled that the decision by DAPCB to the effect that Meera Investment was not the owner of the land comprised in Freehold Register volume 1082 Folio 1 plot 24 Kampala Road was made and created ‘without jurisdiction, irregularly: Unlawfully, illegally and therefore it is declared a nullity’.
“The applicant[Meera Investment] is the lawful owner of the land comprised in Freehold Register volume 1082 Folio 1 Plot 24 Kampala Road.
“The respondents shall pay the costs of this application to the applicant.”
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