Justice George Kanyeihamba on Monday walked out of court as the Constitutional Court heard the petition challenging the reappointment of Benjamin Odoki as Chief Justice.
Kanyeihamba is the lead counsel for Western Youth MP Gerald Karuhanga, who is challenging the reappointment of Benjamin Odoki who retired a year ago after turning 70 years.
Kanyeihamba, in his robe and judicial wig, exchanged words with the panel of judges over their decision to continue the petition after ruling that the judges mentioned as biased had ‘gone off the bench’.
The five man bench led by Justice Remmy Kasule found no merit in the argument that some of them were biased. Kasule told the lowly attended court session that the judges had seen no order to stop proceedings from going upfront and were convinced that the court is properly constituted as the judges who were in question had been withdrawn from the case.
Kanyeihamba had earlier objected to the presence of Justices Sam Kavuma and Augustine Nshimye on the bench, whom he accused of bias. He filed a petition with the Supreme Court to express his disappointment.
On arrival in court today, the two judges were missing, but Kanyeihamba insisted that as a matter of principle the judges should recuse themselves before the case could go on. He also added that he had instructions from his client, MP Gerald Karuhanga, to file a petition before the Supreme Court and that required that the case be halted.
The fiery exchange ended with the walk-out of Kanyeihamba from court, though the proceedings went on. Karuhanga, who was also in court, also walked out with Kanyeihamba.
Court is examining whether the appointment of former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki to the office after he has attained the required age for retirement is constitutional.
In Kanyeihamba’s absence, Principal State Attorney Wanyama Kadoli argued to the court that advice from the judicial service commission to the President on whether Odoki could be appointed as Chief Justice was not binding. He argued that a President can choose to disregard the advice and that in the particular case, the letter of the attorney general had helped ‘clear the air’.
A vividly inquisitive bench questioned Kadoli on whether advice on an illegality like the occupation of an office beyond the constitutionally agreed upon age can be neglected.
Fresh evidence of three letters authored by the Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission, Justice James Ogoola, to the president indicated that on three different occasions, Ogoola had told the president that there were ‘reservations’ to the appointment of Odoki as the Chief Justice as he had attained the maximum age of 70 according to Article 143 of the constitution.
In one of the letters dated August 1, 2013 and attached as an annexure to the court documents, Ogoola wrote to the President cautioning him that ‘to advise him otherwise would be an illegality’.
Court has reserved its judgment to be delivered on notice.
Karuhanga ran to the constitutional court to challenge the appointment of Benjamin Odoki as the chief justice of Uganda citing that he had attained 70 years of age and was unqualified for the job. As it stands, Uganda still has no substantive chief justice.