The Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters has responded to a recent court ruling that trimmed its powers and also quashed orders in regards payment of billions of shillings in compensation to businessmen by the Uganda Land Commission.
In August, the commission led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire ordered the Uganda Land Commission to halt any payment from the Land Fund to claimants including Robert Mwesigwa through his company, American Procurement Company pending conclusion of their investigations into alleged dubious payments in regards plots located at Kyaggwe, Buyaga and Bugangayizi.
Justice Andrew Bashaija last week the commission’s directive before stopping officials from the Ministry of Finance, Uganda Land Commission and any other government institution from interfering with the compensation in regards the said plot of land.
However,in their response, the Bamugemereire commission say they were denied a right to be heard by Justice Bashaija during his court proceedings.
“We note that the court contrived to reject all evidence presented on behalf of the Commission of Inquiry by the Attorney General for reasons that are not legally tenable,” says the commission its secretary Dr.Douglas Singiza.
“To add insult to injury, after declining to consider the affidavit, the honorable judge then went on reject an earlier affidavit filed by the Attorney General on the basis that the deponent was not an employee of the Commission of Inquiry .The irony of this suggests that the court was determined to treat the application as if it was unopposed.”
The Bamugemereire commission says Justice Bashaija acted as a judge in his own cause while deliberating in the matter, a thing they say is unacceptable.
According to the land commission, the same matter had been entered and presided over by Justice Bashaija in his previous position as a judge at the land division.
They saw there was conflict of interest since it was the same judge in charge of the judicial review of the matter in the civil division which later quashed the earlier orders.
“We note that one of the cardinal principles in the procedure for judicial review is that no person should be judge in his own cause. We are of the view that the judge acted in a matter in which he had more than normal judicial interest and was therefore not the appropriate person to consider the application.”
The land commission also says that the orders made by Justice Bashaija were so extensive that they affect persons, property and institutions that were not before the court and also not party to the application for judicial review.
“A simple reading of that order conveys the impression that it applies to all property including land and claims which do not belong to the applicant,” says the commission.
“It also purports to permanently injunct all manner of government bodies whether presently in existence or not. Effectively, it appears to be designed to be used as a weapon not only against the commission of inquiry but also against government so that never again can a matter be investigated, inquired into or questioned.”
The commission has also asked the Attorney General to appeal against the ruling made by Justice Andrew Bashaija of the High Court civil division.
The response has also been copied to the Solicitor General and the director in charge of civil litigation in the ministry of justice and Constitutional Affairs.