The Supreme Court yesterday concluded the hearing of Kampala Lord Mayor, Mr Erias Lukwago’s appeal in which he seeks to be reinstated after he was thrown out of office on orders of the Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma.
Mr Lukwago’s lawyers asked the court to reinstate their client as Lord Mayor to enable him perform his duties until his main appeal challenging his impeachment before the same court is disposed of.
The penal of judges included Justices Esther Kisaakye Mayambala, Benjamin Odoki and Christine Kitumba.
Mr Katuntu, Mr Lukwago’s lead counsel, argued that Justice Kavuma overstepped his mandate when he sat alone, instead of a full panel of three justices of the Court of Appeal, and quashed the earlier orders of the High Court which had reinstated Lukwago as lord mayor.
Justice Kavuma ordered Mr Lukwago out of office at City Hall on March 31, three hours after he had resumed duty following the High Court ruling by Justice Lydia Mugambe on March 28. Mr Katuntu faulted Justice Kavuma for making orders on matters that were not before him as a court.
He further argued the judge’s action was an illegality and asked the Supreme Court to declare it null and void.
“The applicant (Mr Lukwago) raises serious points of law and contends that the Acting Deputy Chief Justice acted in excess of his jurisdiction and contrary to the law by giving orders as a single judge that varied the express orders of High Court judge Lydia Mugambe,” Mr Katuntu said.
However, Mr Martin Mwambutsya, representing the Attorney General, asked the court to throw out Lukwago’s application, arguing that Mr Lukwago’s application had no merit.
Mr Mwambutsya said under Court of Appeal Rules 2 (2), Section 98 of the Civil Procedure Act and Section 12 of the Judicature Act, Justice Kavuma had powers as a single judge to reverse orders of Justice Mugambe.
He said there was nothing irregular. He added that all the contested orders arose from the application and thus there was no illegality committed by Justice Kavuma.
Further challenging Mr Lukwago’s application, Mr Charles Ouma, a lawyer for Kampala Capital City Authority, said the authority was operating wellwithout the Lord Mayor, therefore there was no urgency to rush Mr Lukwago back to office before his main appeal is disposed of.
He also said Mr Lukwago had not shown special circumstances to warrant him return to office urgently.
“The applicant has been out of office for the last five months and the authority has been functioning well without him. KCCA has continued to exist as it has the Minister, Division mayors and councillors,” Mr Ouma said.
“Mr Lukwago serves as a KCCA full time employee and earns a salary and allowances which can be compensated in monetary terms. The balance of convenience, therefore tilts in favour of the respondents. The applicant should maintain his status as directed by Justice Kavuma,” he added.
But Mr Katuntu said the non-contested status quo was of Mr Lukwago resuming his office as Lord Mayor on March 31 before he was kicked out on Justice Kavuma’s orders which should be maintained.
After hearing both sides, Justice Kisaakye, who led the panel of judges, said the court would give its ruling on a date which would be decided later.
She also said Justice Kavuma’s orders kicking Lukwago out of office would remain in force until the Supreme Court’s gave its verdict.
On March 28, High Court judge Mugambe ruled that Lukwago’s impeachment by KCCA on 25th November 2013 was illegal because it had been stopped by court. She ordered Lukwago’s reinstatement in office.
However on March 31, Lukwago was thrown out hardly three hours in office, after the Attorney General secured superior orders from Deputy Chief Justice Kavuma.
Mr Katuntu also asked the Supreme Court to issue orders restraining the Electoral Commission from conducting a by-election for a new Kampala mayor until Mr Lukwago’s substantive appeal against his November impeachment is concluded.
But Mr Mwambutsya said Mr Katuntu was wasting court’s time because what he was asking for had been overtaken by events since the poll date of April 17 had already passed. But Mr Katuntu insisted that the EC and AG could change their mind any time and hold the by-election.