Mao, law firm clash over court rulings

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Norbert Mao.  PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • “The purpose of this letter is to request your [Principal Judge Flavian Zeija] immediate administrative intervention call for the file and examine the propriety of the complaint. By copy of this letter, the acting IGP is at this moment notified to restore the status quo to allow the conclusion of the judicial,’’ Justice minister Norbert Mao

A Kampala law firm and the Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Mr Norbert Mao, are reading from different scripts on rulings of lower courts and the broader administration of justice.

Kampala Associated Advocates (KAA) accuses Mr Mao of meddling in a High Court decision at Mbarara involving a commercial property dispute.
The law firm, acting on behalf of Kellen Keremera, has asked the minister to back off on account that his acts of directing Principal Judge Flavian Zeija to call for a court file of the property dispute amounts to interference with judicial independence.

“We received your March 19 letter in which you requested the Principal Judge to call for the file in the above-captioned matter and examine the propriety of the complaint. This will amount to interference with the independence of the Judiciary,’’  KAA wrote to Mr Mao last week.

“Your letter makes your office a new avenue to abuse the court process. If someone has gone to court and lost, there are appeal processes in the law. The ministerial office is not an appeal process and should not be used as such,’’  the firm further stated.
But Mr Mao said he intervened because in the Judiciary, there are “judicial and administrative orders”.

“You know me as the strong advocate for judicial independence, but I am also a strong advocate for judicial accountability if at all there is an abuse. I sought the intervention of the Principal Judge because he is their supervisor and that is all I did,’’ Mr Mao said in a telephone interview last evening.

According to letters seen by this publication, Mr Mao wrote to Mr Zeija, claiming the Mbarara City North MP, Mr Robert Mwesigwa, sought his intervention on behalf of one of his voters, Mr Francis Ishanga.  He further stated that Mr Ishanga filed a court matter against Karemera and the Bank of Baroda challenging what he described as a fraudulent sale of his commercial property compromised in FRV 1072 Folio 15, Plot 1, Kitunzi Road Kamugazi, Mbarara City.

Mr Mao added that Mr Ishanga had entered into a debt settlement arrangement with the bank by selling part of his property in Kashari, however, the bank illegally sold his property to Ms Karemera.  
According to the minister, Mr Ishanga’s court matter had been mishandled before he directed the Principal Judge to intervene.

Karemera and property
According to a letter by KAA to Mr Mao, New Mugisha Ltd borrowed money from Bank of Baroda. It is further alleged that New Mugisha Ltd failed to pay its loan and the bank advertised the property twice in a local newspaper.
“On December 19, 2023, our client (Karemera) saw an advert in the newspaper for the property of New Mugisha. Our client bid for the property on January 9, 2024,’’ KAA letter to the minister reads in part.

“On January 19, 2024, our client was declared the successful bidder of the said property. Our client paid the purchase price of the property and the bank handed over the registration documentation on February 9 and was fully registered on the title of the property on February 12,’’ the letter added.
The lawyers further wrote that before taking over possession, New Mugisha applied for an interim court order in the High Court at Mbarara, whose application was dismissed on March 5.