OPINION: Upholding Justice Amidst Delays in the Hamis Kiggundu and DTB Case

Friday, July 28, 2023

The recent explanation provided by Justice Percy Night Tuhaise of the High Court regarding her decision not to halt the delivery of judgment in the shs120 billion case involving businessman Hamis Kiggundu and DTB sheds light on the complexities faced by the judiciary in addressing protracted legal matters.

Last month, Justice Tuhaise dismissed an application by Hamis Kiggundu without providing reasons for her decision. However, in a comprehensive ruling this week, she elucidated that the primary factor behind proceeding with the judgment was the prolonged delay in delivering it, emphasizing the importance of resolving the case.

The case, first heard in November 2021, encountered a setback when Justice Opio – Aweri (RIP) passed away in December 2022 before delivering the judgment. Consequently, the panel had to be reconstituted with new Justices appointed to the Court. In May 2023, Justice Musota joined the reconstituted panel, which proceeded to rehear the appeal. Justice Tuhaise, being a member of both the original and reconstituted panels, confirmed that the reasons for the reconstitution were duly communicated to the involved parties and their respective counsel during the hearing.

Each party was given an opportunity to present any additional submissions, but both sides, through their lawyers, chose to adopt their earlier submissions, with no new information to add. Hamis Kiggundu’s legal team sought to halt the final judgment, arguing that the appeal had been heard in November 2021, and written submissions were filed, awaiting judgment. Upon realizing DTB’s admission, they filed an application for judgment on admission.

Justice Tuhaise clarified that, as the presiding judge, her role on the day of judgment was solely to read it and not hear any further applications. She believed that the applications presented should be raised before a competent panel, with proper scheduling for a hearing on the merits. At the time of delivering the judgment, no such step had been taken, and the court record did not indicate otherwise.

Emphasizing the distinction between her role and that of a panel or single justice, Justice Tuhaise affirmed that she was merely delivering the judgment on behalf of the panel, not presiding over a hearing or deciding on applications. Consequently, she refrained from delving deeply into the submissions to avoid treading into the merits of the applications.

Throughout the process, there was no order from any panel to halt the judgment, nor was there any indication from the Court’s Registrar or the case record to hinder her from delivering it.

Justice Tuhaise’s explanation underscores the need for clear communication and proper scheduling in the judicial process, especially in cases with prolonged timelines. Delays can lead to complications and confusion, necessitating the allocation of sufficient resources to expedite the resolution of legal disputes.

As we reflect on this case, we must remember that upholding justice requires a diligent and transparent approach. By learning from instances like this, we can enhance the efficiency of our legal system and ensure that justice is served promptly and fairly for all parties involved.

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