The Deputy Chief Justice Stephen Kavuma on Monday refused to step aside from hearing a case in which Lubaga South MP, Mr Paul Kato Lubwama seeks to block the filing of an election petition against him.
The lawyer representing Mr Lubwama’s political rival Habib Buwembo had asked Justice Kavuma to excuse himself from the panel handling the case on account that his client would not get justice. The lawyer said the lead judge, Mr Kavuma has a personal grudge against him.
“The respondent (Buwembo) has a right to counsel of his own choice and should not be forced to switch them or be assigned others he did not have confidence and trust in just on account of there being a judge on the panel who may have one or two issues with the counsel of his choice,” Mr Isaac Ssemakadde says in a letter.
In a letter addressed to Justice Kavuma, Mr Ssemakadde expressed fear that his client would not get justice given his (Ssemakadde) present relationship with the judge. He said given that he has filed several suits and complaints before the Chief Justice and the Judicial Service Commission questioning Justice Kavuma’s impartiality and appointment as the Deputy Chief Justice, his client, Mr Buwembo may not get justice.
However, in a ruling read for him by the court’s Deputy Registrar, Mr Deo Nzeyimana, Justice Kavuma dismissed Mr Ssemakadde’s application on grounds that it was defective because it was based on mere uncertainties with no genuine concern.
He argued that his relationship with a lawyer has no connection or effect on a party in any case.
“All judicial officers take the oath to administer justice to all manner of people impartially and without fear, favour, affection or ill-will. That oath must be respected and Buwembo is not exceptional,” the judge said.
The judge, however, noted that the law requires a litigant or his lawyer to ask a judge to whom they may have an issue to excuse himself from hearing his/her case but this must be done for a genuine cause and not under the guise of choosing a judge that they want to hear their case.
Justice Kavuma then directed that the case be immediately fixed again for hearing.
Buwembo’s lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde of Legal Brains Trust (LBT) expressed worries on Justice Kavuma’s participation on the panel of the three judges to rule on Lubwama’s petition against High Court Judge Justice Oumo Oguli ruling that granted Buwembo permission to file an election petition after the legally specified time had elapsed.
On his part Kato Lubwama said that the ruling is a sign of victory before bragging of how he is blessed by God hence cautioning his opponents not to mix political matters to court.
This appeal application was assigned to a panel of three justices including Stephen Kavuma, Hellen Obura and Cheborion Barishaki
Mr Lubwama wants the Court of Appeal to quash the decision of the High Court which allowed Buwembo to file an election petition challenging his academic qualifications outside the stipulated time.
However, Mr Ssemakadde told journalists that he accepted that the case be heard hoping to at least get solace from the other two judges on the panel; Justice Hellen Obura and Justice Cheborion Barishaki.