Uganda: Magistrate Probed Over Tampering With Case File

The Judiciary is investigating a Grade One magistrate in Fort Portal Court on accusations of hearing a case without instructions from his superiors.

It is alleged that in February at the Chief Magistrate's Court in Fort Portal, Magistrate Dan Mwesiga ordered clerks in the registry to create a duplicate file, which enabled him to handle a case that was not allocated to him, contrary to judicial practice.

The probe, according to the complaint against the magistrate, is in regard to a criminal case against Peter Alinda and Cyprian Rwaheeru, which had been allocated to Magistrate Elisha Arinaitwe.

Mr Jameson Karemaani, the Judiciary spokesperson, confirmed the magistrate is undergoing a disciplinary process.

"I am aware about the matter and it is before the internal disciplinary committee of the Judiciary. The Judiciary is investigating the allegations," he said by telephone.

According to Mr Karemaani, both Mr Mwesiga and Mr Arinaitwe have since appeared before the disciplinary committee, which is yet to give its findings and decision. "... Before they (committee) come up with their findings, I cannot give details of the case because it might prejudice their decision," he added.

The disciplinary proceedings were a recommendation by the Inspector of Courts upon a complaint by Mr Juma Hussein. Ssemengo and Company Advocates who represent Mr Hussein in the case against the two suspects say Mr Mwesiga's conduct undermined the Judiciary's integrity and court's effectiveness to adjudicate cases effectively.

In a February 16 letter to the Chief Inspector of Courts, Mr Arinaitwe stated that on February 3, while sitting in for the chief magistrate who was off station, called the case file but when he convened the court session to hear the plea-taking in the matter, court orderlies informed him that the suspects had been released on bail by another magistrate, Mr Mwesiga.

"When I inquired about the incident, he (Mwesiga) informed me that indeed he had opened up a duplicate file and granted the accused bail. I was shocked and wondered why he had opened up a duplicate file yet there was an original file. ..."

However, on February 17, Mr Mwesiga wrote, saying the allegations against him were false. Mr Mwesiga asked the chief magistrate to dismiss the complaint saying the complaints were deliberate lies.

"The whole complaint by Mr Juma (Hussein) is because I granted bail to the accused persons. ...Fortunately, I already recused myself from hearing the said case and accordingly handed it over to you for allocation," Mr Mwesiga wrote to the chief magistrate.

Source: The Monitor

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