KAMPALA: The Judiciary has confirmed investigations against a High Court judge over disappearance of a case file after allegedly demanding a bribe.
On November 25 last year, Chief Justice Bart Katureebe wrote to Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine stating that the allegations against Justice Joseph Murangira were serious and should be investigated fully by the Judicial Service Commission.
Justice Murangira is attached to the High Court’s Criminal Division in Kampala. It is alleged that he caused the disappearance of the file for eight years.
“There are two aspects to this file, first is the issue of the disappearance of the court file and the fate of the convicted individuals who wish to appeal the High Court decision. You should inform the Court of Appeal that the file appears to be irretrievably lost so that the court may take appropriate decision...” reads part of Justice Katureebe’s letter to the Principal Judge.
“...It’s my considered view that these are serious allegations that deserve further inquiry.You should therefore send the matter to the Judicial Service Commission for necessary investigation and action,” the letter adds.
When this newspaper contacted a senior official in the Inspectorate Division at the Judicial Service Commission, he confirmed receipt of the petition against Justice Murangira.
“Yes, we received that complaint and we are investigating it for possible action,” the official said but preferred to be quoted off-record.
Daily Monitor has also seen a letter written by Justice Bamwine in regard to the issue dated November 28, 2016. In the letter, Justice Bamwine states that although the alleged lost file was recovered eight years later, the incident still dents the Judiciary’s credibility.
When contacted to confirm whether he wrote the letters attributed to him, Justice Bamwine said: “The signature looks mine, but I am not at liberty to discuss anything dispatched under confidential cover.”
However, Justice Murangira dismissed the allegations and branded the investigation as malicious propaganda by the Principal Judge.
Justice Murangira said in 2005/06 when he is alleged to have made his judgment on the said case, he was still a registrar of Court of Appeal, not a judge as claimed by the petitioner, and therefore could not have presided over the criminal case.
“All those are malicious propaganda purported by the Principal Judge. About the lost file, judges don’t keep files and at the said time of 2005/6, I was a registrar and not a judge. So there was no way I could have passed a judgment,” Justice Murangira said by telephone last evening.
When this newspaper contacted counsel Frank Kanduho, the complainant, he said he was not sure about the exact year when the judge allegedly asked for the bribe but insisted he was certain he asked for a bribe.
“Ask him about the substance of the allegation not the accuracy of year(s). I may have lost the accurate account of the year when he presided over this case but I am certain about the fact of his soliciting a bribe.” Mr Kanduho said. However, Justice Murangira dismissed the allegations as baseless and malicious.
Documents show that the alleged graft came up in July 2011 when Mushabe, Munungu and Co Advocates petitioned the Principal Judge.