A High Court Judge has petitioned the acting Chief Justice Steven Kavuma complaining about a “sensitive file” which has disappeared.
Justice Anup Singh Choudry on Wednesday wrote to Justice Kavuma saying he had received a letter from the Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine enquiring about the whereabouts of the file in the case of Peter Baleke Kayira versus the Attorney General and Kaweri Coffee Plantations, No. 179 of 2002. The case involves farmers.
The judge says the disappearance suggests the presence of mafias in judiciary. “Had the file been misplaced, it would have been found by now. I fear we have mafias in the court otherwise there is no rhyme or reason for such large sensitive file to be misplaced or to disappear,” Justice Choudry’s letter reads in part.
Explaining the genesis of the matter, Justice Choudry said he was informed the file was required by Nakawa Court before Shs20 million, which was deposited to court by the farmers as security, could be released. He added that however, he released the file to Nakawa Court with a note that it must be returned to his chambers.
“The file was accompanied by my bodyguard, two lawyers and one layman when it left my chambers so that it did not drop on the way,” Justice Choudry states.
In May last year, Justice Choudry cited corruption in the Judiciary and accused senior lawyers of conniving with the Attorney General’s office to defraud “impoverished” Ugandans. The AG denied any wrongdoing. Justice Choudry called for stern action against ‘mafias’ in the country’s judicial system.
Principal Judge Bamwine yesterday denied the allegation that there are mafias in the judiciary. “We don’t have mafias in the judiciary and this is an insult to some of us,” said Justice Bamwine when contacted last evening. He admitted to having received a complaint from one of the lawyers of the claimants about the missing file. But he said he suspected the file was misplaced and added that he was not aware of it.
In March last year, Justice Choudry said he gave a judgment in the missing case file in favour of Kaweri farmers and ordered the Shs20 million which had been deposited in court as security for costs, be paid out forthwith.
In his letter to Justice Kavuma, Justice Choudry said: “My order was not acted upon because of some archaic procedures which delay justice in our courts all the time.
The farmers had to make an application to the Court of Appeal which also ordered the release of security monies. But now the farmers cannot be paid because the file is missing,” the judge noted.
“I note that the lawyers for the farmers are being tossed from one place to the other or from one court to another each day for the last one year. This is sheer harassment of the poor farmers who do not have enough resources to pay their lawyers. It is extraordinary that a massive file can go missing from the office of Chief Registrar who is now a High Court Judge,” he said.
When contacted last evening, Justice Henry Adonyo, who was then the Acting Chief Registrar, laughed off the claims before denying ever seeing or receiving the file in question.
He said such files are not handled by the Chief Registrar.
“The Chief Registrar does not handle such files. I don’t think I ever came across this file. He (Justice Choudry) is the one who had that file,” said Justice Adonyo on phone Thursday evening. “This is far from the Chief Registrars’ office and we don’t handle files that way,” he added.
Justice Kavuma couldn’t be reached for a comment as he was not answering calls. However, Justice Choudry said an investigation should be made as to how the file left the office of the Chief Registrar or the office of the High Court Judge.