Lawyers storm out of Odoki hearing

Kampala- There was drama yesterday when lawyers walked out of the Constitutional Court in the case of the contested re-appointment of retired Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki.

Lawyers of the petitioner, Mr Gerald Karuhanaga (Western Youth MP ),walked out of court in protest led by Prof George Kanyeihamba. Mr Karuhanga’s lawyers protested the manner in which a new panel of five justices reconstituted itself to hear the petition despite a pending appeal before the Supreme Court challenging the earlier decision by acting Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma and Justice Augustine Nshimye not to disqualify themselves from an earlier panel over alleged bias.

However, justices Kavuma and Nshimye are not on the panel yet in their earlier ruling, they had refused to disqualify themselves from the panel and the Supreme Court has not yet pronounced itself on the appeal.

The new panel of justices that now constitutes justices Remmy Kasule, Eldad Mwangusya, Rubby Aweri Opio, Solomy Bbossa, and Lillian Tibatemwa overruled the preliminary objection raised by Prof Kanyeihamba and group before ordering that the hearing that had stalled since January this year takes off.

The lawyers who had in vain wanted the new panel to stay the proceedings until the Supreme Court pronounces itself on the matter, then walked out of court in protest.The justices, in their ruling, held that their new panel is not being challenged by the petitioner and that they could not indulge themselves into the merits of the old panel that they are challenging.

Further, the justices said that being a constitutional matter, the law demands that it should be heard expeditiously.

Subsequently, the justices went ahead and heard the case one sided with the Attorney General, who is the respondent in this matter, defending the decision by President Museveni to reappoint retired Justice Odoki to the position of Chief Justice.MP Karuhanga has vowed to appeal yesterday’s decision by the court.

Mr Kadoli Wanyama, the Principal State Attorney who represented the Attorney General in this case, argued that the Constitution which is the supreme law of the country, does not bar the President from re-appointing a retired Chief Justice back to the same position.

Mr Wanyama who also cited various correspondences in which the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) wrote to the President, noted that even if the JSC had reservations in recommending the reappointment of Justice Odoki to the same position, they left the matter to the Attorney General and the President.

After listening to the submissions in support of President Museveni in reappointing Justice Odoki for a two-year contract, the court said it will give its verdict at a much later date legally referred to as ‘ruling on notice’.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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