KAMPALA– Chief Justice Bart Katureebe has hit back at Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, rejecting her assertions that some civil servants are conniving with the Judiciary, which he heads, to gag the oversight role of Parliament.
In a letter dated January 13 to Speaker Kadaga, the Chief Justice laments that, however, erroneous the orders of his deputy, Justice Steven Kavuma were, it should not have been interpreted as if the Judiciary connived with some wrong elements to gag the oversight role of Parliament, that Ms Kadaga heads.
“It’s important to appreciate that individual judicial officers, or a panel of judges may make decisions that may aggrieve a party. The constitutional way to proceed is to appeal such decisions to a higher court for review,” Justice Katureebe counseled in his letter copied to President Museveni.
Other senior government officials copied-in include Premier Ruhakana Rugunda, Attorney General William Byaruhanga, EC chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama and the head of Public Service, Mr John Mitala.
“Surely, a decision, however erroneous, made by one judge or a court cannot be taken as a conspiracy by the Judiciary to gag Parliament…” he added.
Ms Kadaga had dubbed as “stupid order” an injunction issued by Katureebe’s deputy Kavuma that sought to stop Parliament from inquiring into the Shs6b oil cash bonuses given to 42 government officials.
Ms Kadaga then followed this up with a letter to President Museveni protesting what she termed suffocation of the work of Parliament by some elements in the civil service. Core to Ms Kadaga’s letter was that the conduct of some civil servants and deputy Chief Justice Kavuma was intended to erode the doctrine of separation of powers with the Judiciary in connivance with some elements in the civil service to gag Parliament.
Justice Katureebe assures Ms Kadaga in the letter that the Judiciary, which he leads, will never connive to gag Parliament.
He adds that any misbehaving officer must be investigated and handled according to the law.
“I want to assure you that the Judiciary will never connive with or gag Parliament. In the same vein, I must emphasise the need for mutual respect between the various arms of government…” Justice Katureebe writes in his letter to Ms Kadaga.
“A wrong decision must be appealed and any officer who acts contrary to the law must be investigated and dealt with by the relevant authorities. The public expects us to be civil and respectful to each other and solve problems in accordance with the established procedure,” he added.
The issuance of the interim orders by Justice Kavuma on January 9, came a day before Parliament was scheduled to commence inquiry into the said oil money bonuses. The controversy climaxed on Tuesday, January 10, when in a heated parliamentary sitting, Speaker Kadaga threw out Justice Kavuma’s orders that she referred to as “stupid orders.”
Ms Kadaga said the orders were intended to gag Parliament from performing its oversight role and that the same could not be acceptable. A visibly angry Kadaga backed by MPs from across the political divide, ordered deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana, to go back to Justice Kavuma’s court and have the “stupid orders” vacated.
Ms Kadaga then suspended parliamentary business indefinitely until such a time when the “stupid orders” of Justice Kavuma had been vacated. But following pressure created by the so-called “stupid orders” that brought the two arms of government, Parliament and Judiciary on a collision path, Mr Eric Sabiiti then voluntarily withdrew his petition on Friday last week, a move that has seen Parliament resume business.
Mr Sabiiti has since been asked by EC top management to show cause why he involved himself in instituting a petition aimed at stopping Parliament from inquiring into the Shs6b oil cash bonuses without clearance from his superiors as the law demands.