The Supreme Court has ruled that National Unity Platform leader, Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine will not be subjected to paying costs to the respondents’ lawyers for withdrawing the petition challenging President Museveni’s election.
Section 61 of the Presidential Elections Act, 2005 stipulates that if a petition is withdrawn the petitioner shall be liable to pay the costs of the respondent.
Giving their detailed ruling for allowing the withdraw of the petition, the panel of nine justices of the Supreme Court said subjecting a petitioner to pay costs for withdrawing the petition would be an impediment to justice since many other would-be petitioners will always fear to file petitions.
“As much as the instant election petition was not prosecuted to the end, it touches on democracy and validity of the election to the highest office in the land. We are therefore not convinced that the court should apply different principles in light of the withdrawn petition,” Justice Ezekiel Muhanguzi who read the ruling on behalf of the panel of nine justices said.
In his submissions, the Attorney General, William Byaruhanga who was speaking on behalf of other respondents asked court to condemn Kyagulanyi to costs because of his conduct during the case.
However, in response, Kyagulanyi’s lawyers led by Medard Sseggona argued that this would be unfair to their client.
“A petition of this nature is important in guaranteeing democracy and rule of law for Ugandans. Persons aggrieved and dissatisfied by the presidential election outcome should find the mood smooth to access courts of law as the final and ultimate target,”Sseggona said.
“Only that Ugandans shall be safe and tranquility guaranteed. This court has got the occasion to consider issues of election petitions and costs in the previous three presidential elections. The person bringing a petition should not be scared of costs should then withdraw the petition.’
On Thursday, the judges said whereas the word “shall” was used in the act, it is not mandatory to subject the petitioner to costs and that the court has the discretion to decide on the same.
“It is upon this background that the word “shall” as contained in the provisions of Section 61 of the Presidential Elections Act 2005 is a directory and not mandatory. This means that the general provisions of the law related to costs should be applied to this case.”
“Ordinarily the petitioner would be ordered to pay costs of the petition to the respondents based on the general rule that costs follow the event. However, the need to promote access to justice in presidential election petitions overrides the need to condemn the applicants to payment of costs. Each party will pay their own costs,” the judges directed.