By: ANTHONY WESAKA
ENTEBBE: Acting Chief Justice Steven Kavuma and the Inspector General of Government (IGG) yesterday clashed over technicalities employed by suspected criminals to use the Constitutional Court as a ‘hiding place’ to avoid justice.
The clash between Ms Irene Mulyagonja and Justice Kavuma, arose when the ombudsman asked judges to take precaution as they refer questions for interpretation before the Constitutional Court, arguing that the process is being abused by suspects to avoid the law.
The clash between the two bigwigs happened at the ongoing judges’ annual conference in Entebbe. Ms Mulyagonja gave an example of the case of former NSSF Board chairman Onegi Obel, that she said took about five years at the Constitutional Court before it was recently determined, to back her claims.
She noted that the suspected criminals, upon being charged, start going round in circles by asking the trial courts to refer their grievances for determination to the Constitutional Court, which process she said takes a long time and that this should be minimised.
Judge backs Mulyagonja
During yesterday’s session, High Court judge David Wangutusi, also backed the IGG, saying some of the questions referred to the Constitutional Court for interpretation are not worth referring there. He added that the suspects are instead expending legal technicalities to use the court as a ‘hiding place’.
However, Justice Kavuma hit back at the IGG and Justice Wangutusi, saying they were calling the Constitutional Court names without knowing the circumstances under which the court has been operating under.
“I head the Constitutional Court but for people to call it names, I think we need to be civilized in the language used. They should know the background of these issues like not having had quorum for a long time to hear constitutional petitions as some of the justices in that court were elevated to Supreme Court and some died,” Justice Kavuma said.
“To generalise that technicalities are being used to make the court a ‘hiding place’, is unfair,” he added.
Justice Kavuma also advised that the only way for those opposed to having questions referred to the Constitutional Court for interpretation is by pushing for the amendment of the law to stop the same.
He explained that at the Constitutional Court, they do not just hear any questions referred to them but first establish whether they warrant an interpretation and if it doesnot, it is sent back for trial.
EX- NSSF BOARD CHAIRMAN’S CASE
Former NSSF Board chairman Onegi Obel unsuccessfully argued that he could not be charged with criminal offences under the Anti-Corruption Act of 2009 for offences that he allegedly committed between 2003 and 2005 before the Act came into force.
But the Constitutional Court recently ruled against him and ordered his file to be sent back to the Anti-Corruption Court and the commencement of his trial.
During the annual judges conference, judges discuss issues affecting their performance and their work in the past judicial year and then plan for the new judicial year.