UMSC leadership row: PJ rejects plea to transfer file back to Jinja

Combo: Sheikh Abdullah Ssemambo (R) and Sheikh Shaban Mubajje (R). PHOTOS/ FILE

What you need to know:

  • Justice Zeija said litigants are not at liberty to choose the judge to hear the cases filed in court
  • Mr Abudallatwiif Muhammad Kayanja, the public relations officer of Anti Mubajje faction said the principal judge is acting with impunity and total disregard of the law and known legal procedures.

The Principal Judge, Mr Flavian Zeija has rejected a petition by a section of Muslims who wanted a case file in which Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) is challenging the election of Sheikh Abdullah Ssemambo as acting Mufti replacing embattled Mufti of Uganda Sheik Shaban Mubajje, be transferred back to Jinja High Court.

This comes weeks after Justice Zeija changed the presiding judge Faridah Shamilah Bukirwa of Jinja High Court and transferred the file to Justice Singiza Douglas Karekona who is attached to the Civil Division of the High Court under the supervision of Justice Musa Sekaana in Kampala.

On May 15, Justice Bukirwa gave the two parties between May 22 and May 29 to file their written submissions as she also prepared to give her judgment on notice.

In the letter dated May 27, 2024, addressed to Justice Zeija, signed by the acting UMSC National Chairperson (of Ssemambo faction) Hajj Issa Gule, had asked the PJ to “unconditionally” refer back the file to Justice Bukirwa to deliver her ruling.

“The case has exhaustively been heard and it is only pending a ruling. Reallocation of the file is not only illegal, procedurally wrong, but a total abuse of office and the constitution which we shall not accept,’’ Hajj Gule said.
But responding to Hajj Gule’s petition in a letter dated June 5, Justice Zeija said litigants are not at liberty to choose the judge to hear the cases filed in court.

“The duty to distribute business in court is an administrative responsibility of the court. At the High Court level, the duty is vested in the Principal Judge by section 20 of the Judicature Act. Litigants are not at liberty to choose a judge to hear the cases they file in Court,’’ he said.
Justice Zeija said the UMSC leadership row case file is not the first and the last file to be transferred insisting that his directive to have it handled at Kampala High Court is because UMSC is headquartered in Kampala.

“Uganda Muslim Supreme Council is headquartered in Kampala and the Civil Division is vested with that Jurisdiction to hear this matter. That is what informed the decision to transfer the case to the proper court for further management,’’ he explained  
Before the file was relocated to Justice Singiza Douglas Karekona  , UMSC (Mubajje faction), on May 23, 2024, wrote a letter to Justice Bukirwa signed by the General Secretary , Mr  Abbas Muluubya asking her  to disqualify herself on her own volition from participating in the UMSC leadership row case on ground that her impartiality is reasonably in question.

Mr Muluubya claimed that   Justice Bukirwa has personal knowledge of the disputed facts concerning the case and she is allegedly a member of Sheikh Ssemambo’s faction.
Mr Erias Luyimbazi Nalukoola, the lawyer representing anti Mubajje faction said Justice Zeija  should be aware of the legal principle that governs review applications.

“We have the legal principles which govern applications for review and the decision of Justice Nkonge which culminated into the return of the case file back to Jinja delivered in December last year,’’ he said.

Mr Nalukoola said the decision of Justice Nkonge has never been appealed against.
Mr Abudallatwiif Muhammad Kayanja, the public relations officer of Anti Mubajje faction said the principal judge is acting with impunity and total disregard of the law and known legal procedures.

“Since it's now evident that he acts with impunity and total disregard of the law, we are dragging him to the Judicial Service Commission ,’’he said.
Mr Kayanja said they have no business with Justice Singiza Douglas Kerakona and they vowed not to appear before him.

Last Friday, Sheikh Ssemambo was stopped from crossing to Jinja City to preside over Juma prayers at Taqwa Mosque on Lubasi Road.
Jinja South Division Deputy Resident City Commissioner, Mr Henry Kitambula said this was done to “avoid bloodshed.”
He said Sheikh Ssemambo would be allowed in Jinja after the two Muslim factions have settled their differences.