Law Society scoffs at Mao over interference with court orders

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Norbert Mao.  PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Now, ULS is urging the judiciary not to entertain directives by justice minister Nobert Mao.

The Uganda Law Society (ULS) has hit out at Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Norbert Mao for his alleged interference with the court works.

The lawyers’ professional body in a March 30t statement contends that the judiciary, as constitutionally mandated, should operate without interference from anybody including the justice minister, the political overseer of the justice system in the country.

“The judiciary should operate independently in interpreting and applying the law, devoid of any external influence or coercion. Upholding this independence is crucial for the proper functioning of the legal system and the administration of justice,” reads in part the statement signed off by ULS president Bernard Oundo.

Mao’s alleged interference with the judiciary stems from his March 19 letter in which he wrote to Principal Judge Flavian Zeija, directing him to call a court file involving Mbarara businessman Francis Ishanga, whose property had been auctioned to Kellen Keremera for failure to clear a bank loan.

The minister wanted Zeija to intervene on grounds that the said court file had been mismanaged by Mbarara High Court.

Further, Mao had directed the acting Inspector General of Police to restore a pre-existing status quo by placing Ishanga back into possession of the disputed property, contrary to a pre-existing order that had recognized Keremera as the new property owner.

The property in question was a commercial property (plot of land and a warehouse) compromised in FRV 1072 Folio 15, Plot 1, Kitunzi Road Kamugazi, Mbarara City.

Now, ULS is urging the judiciary not to entertain such directives.

“The ULS therefore, urges the judiciary to treat with contempt such letters and communications whose sole aim is to interfere with judicial independence and continue to make judicial decisions solely basing on the law and evidence presented before them as this is paramount to maintaining public trust in the legal system and upholding justice,” the ULS statement reads in part.

Adding: “We, therefore, caution the police and other government agencies against implementing the unlawful directive of the minister and advise the aggrieved parties to instead utilize the existing legal procedures pertaining to review, appeal, and other similar remedies provided for under the law and within the purview of the courts.”

Article 128 (2) of the 1995 Constitution states:  "No person or authority shall interfere with the courts or judicial officers in the exercise of their judicial functions."

Last week Mao told Monitor that said there are “judicial” and “administrative” orders and that the intervention he sought from Zeija was administrative.

"You know me as the strong advocate for judicial independence but I'm also a strong advocate for judicial accountability if at all there is abuse. I sought the intervention of the Principal Judge because he is their supervisor and that is all I did," Mao said last week.

He added: "This is not the only administrative request I have made as a minister, there are many others."