Senior judges trade attacks

Thursday June 6 2013

By YASIIN MUGERWA

Kampala

The back-and-forth exchange between embattled High Court judge Anup Singh Choudry and Principal Judge Yorokam Bamwine is not about to cease after the former accused the latter of being worse than the “Black Mambas”.

In a May 22 letter, Justice Choudry, whom the Uganda Law Society (ULS) wants dismissed over alleged professional misconduct, accuses the principal judge of passing confidential information to ULS, which formed the basis of their petition against him.

The law society in 2011 petitioned the Constitutional Court, saying Justice Choudry is unfit to be a judge having been found guilty of professional misconduct by the Law Society of England. ULS wants the court to order President Museveni to appoint a tribunal to investigate Justice Choudry as recommended by the Judicial Service Commission. But Justice Choudry now says Justice Bamwine has a hand in his woes.

In his letter, Justice Choudry writes: “Whilst we have criticised the behaviour of the Black Mamba squad, such connivance from your office is equally worse because in either case, the independence of the Judiciary has been most significantly degraded and eroded.”

The Black Mamba—a paramilitary unit—stormed the High Court in Kampala on November 14, 2005 and rearrested 14 treason suspects, who had been granted bail. Among the suspects was opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye.

The then Principal Judge James Ogoola described the raid as the “rape of the temple of justice”. Justice Bamwine yesterday denied any wrongdoing and advised Justice Choudry to seek redress in courts of law or appeal to the Chief Justice and the President.

“All Ugandans know the problems he has been having with ULS. I cannot be the source of his problems. He cannot say that I am worse than the Black Mambas when even before I became a principal judge, he was already having problems,” Justice Bamwine said.

The principal judge added: “I have not leaked any documents to ULS because his letters, which he normally copies to several people, are not confidential.” This exchange is the latest in what has become a bitter altercation between the two judges. On May 17, Justice Choudry wrote to the Judicial Service Commission, asking that Justice Bamwine be investigated over allegedly leaking documents to ULS.

He also complained that Justice Bamwine had allegedly conspired to deny him work, interfered with the full functionality of his chambers and abused expectation of the appointing authority. Justice Bamwine wrote back, kicking Justice Choudry out of his chambers where he had been working as a standby judge.

Justice Bamwine said: “You know very well that I had offered you shelter in my chambers on compassionate grounds. You have abused that too. Henceforth, you cease to act as a standby judge in my chambers. You of course remain a judge of the High Court attached to no division in particular until directed otherwise.”

However, Justice Choudry said: “I am a properly qualified person in law. I am here on my merits. As such I am not a fugitive judge or destitute that I needed shelter on compassionate grounds from your chambers or from anyone.”

The law society dismissed claims that the principal judge had leaked information to it. The ULS Secretary General, Mr Nicholas Opiyo said: “The ULS has not connived with anyone. The information about Justice Choudry’s professional misconduct was obtained from the UK law society and not the principal judge. We have a problem with his integrity and application of the law.”

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