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Lawyers petition chief justice to probe principal judge’s conduct in DTB case

Lawyer Fred Muwema Represents Hamis Kiggundu

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  Lawyers representing businessman Hamis Kiggundu have petitioned the Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo to probe the conduct of the Principal Judge Dr Flavian Zeija in a case involving DTB Uganda and DTB-Kenya. 

They are complaining about several alleged  unjustified circumstances in which Zeija 

issued directives without granting Kiggundu a right to be heard as the interested party. The lawyers led by Fred Muwema say that the actions appeared to hijack the Judicial process and affect fairness in the administration of Justice.

Last week, the head of the Commercial Court Division Justice Henry Peter Adonyo ordered DTB Uganda to refund all monies deducted from Kiggundu’s accounts in a case involving a syndicated banking agreement between DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya. 

The decision was based on a  suit filed by Kiggundu, through his companies; Ham Enterprises and Kiggs International against DTB Bank, accusing it of illegally taking out more than 120 billion Shillings from his bank account in Uganda. Kiggundu says he had been paying the loan which was organized jointly by DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya, for years. But they later discovered that the Kenyan bank had continued deducting money from his accounts, reportedly using DTB Uganda as an agent.    

The head of the Commercial Court Justice Henry Peter Adonyo ruled that the credit facilities offered by DTB-Kenya to Kiggundu were illegal since the bank is not licenced by to carry out the financial institution business in Uganda. Adonyo also ordered the banks to return the properties that Kiggundu had mortgaged citing that the evidence on record indicates that all the loans obtained were fully settled at law.

But now, Kiggundu’s lawyers say that after the said ruling, DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya filed a notice of appeal and a letter requesting for proceedings which were served to them. The banks also filed two applications seeking a stay of execution of the orders given by the court.

However, the interim order the application was served to them on Monday, a day before the matter was scheduled for a hearing. Despite the short notice, the lawyers say that they filed a reply to the interim order application and went to court for hearing of the case, which, however, did not take place because the Principal Judge had called the file. 

The Principal Judge later issued an interim order staying the execution of Adonyo’s decision in their absence. Now Muwema says that the office of the Principal Judge has not given them any official communication indicating its actions of taking their client’s matter.

Muwema adds that whereas they are aware that the Principal Judge is the administrative head of the High courts, his powers are not supposed to be seen in being interested in one particular file to the extent of calling for it and interfering with its hearing.

They list four occasions where the Principal Judge has called for the file and issued a temporary injunction in the presence of the banks without notifying their client Kiggundu. 

According to their letter, the other occasions include the calling for the file when DTB lawyers in July complained about its allocation to Justice Duncan Gaswaga but were still not notified about the events. The other is when Justice Duncan Gaswaga excused himself from the case before it was later reallocated to Justice Adonyo in mid-July 2020. 

“We question why the Honorable Principal Judge who is not an allocatee Judge sitting in the Judgement of our client’s case should take away our client’s file at a time when the defendants are seeking an interim order to stay execution of orders he neither issued nor can stay on law”, reads the letter in part. 

The lawyers argue that it’s not right for the banks who want to appeal against the Adonyo decision to abuse the available appeal process through the office of the Principal Judge. They now want the Chief Justice to intervene as the administrative head of the Judiciary and issue directions and proper orders for efficient management of their case.

However, according to the Judiciary Public Relations Officer Jameson Karemani, the Principal Judge, the Chief Justice, the Chief Registrar and the Chief Magistrate all have powers to call for the files under their jurisdictions and give guidance accordingly. He says its wrong for Kiggundu’s lawyers to fault him for doing his work. 

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