Before taking leave of the case, the Justices who were led by Mutangula Kibeedi have made an opinion that the Chief Justice should in future consider the gravity of a case like this and make rules under the Civil Procedure Act to provide for restrictions on litigation by vexatious litigants.
Male Mabirizi being guarded by Prison Wardens in Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal in Kampala has advised jailed lawyer
Male Mabirizi to seek pardon from the Court that sent him to prison to serve an
18 months imprisonment for contempt of Court.
The formal advice was made on Friday by Court of Appeal Justices comprised of
Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi, Irene Mulyagonja and Eva Luswata shortly after
dismissing applications in which Mabirizi wanted to be released.
The decision arises from the February 15th, 2022 proceedings
in which the High Court Civil Division Judge Musa Ssekaana found Mabirizi
guilty of contempt of Court and handed him 18 months jail sentence saying he
had continued to use his social media platforms to attack judicial officers.
Ssekaana reasoned that this was in contempt of another order
which he had made on January 27th 2022 directing Mabirizi to pay a compensation
of 300 million shillings the first time he was found guilty for attacking
judicial officers, and issued a strong warning against him to desist from the
Dissatisfied with Ssekaana’s findings and orders on March 1st 2022, Mabirizi filed a set of 12 applications with different names but all seeking to be
released temporarily on grounds that he filed a notice of appeal challenging
Ssekaana 's decision and that the intended appeal has a higher and reasonable
chance of success.
Mabirizi argued that there are serious matters of the law
relating to a fair hearing, the scope of contempt of court and the legality of
the 18 months' imprisonment.
On February 25th, 2022 the Court of Appeal
Justice Christopher Izama Madrama stayed the execution of the 300 million
Mabirizi asked to be released until the
determination of his intended appeal so as to preserve the rule of law and in
the interest of justice, equity as well as transparency.
On their part, the Attorney General who was being
represented by State Attorney’s Hillary Nathan Ebila, Gorret Arinaitwe and Richard
Adrole asked the court to dismiss the applications on the basis that they were
amounting to an abuse of court process since Mabirizi had not yet filed his
appeal. They argued that Mabirizi was a
convict who had not yet filed an appeal and as such, there was nothing pending
in the Court of Appeal for the Justices to base on and release him.
In their decision, the Justices have agreed with the submissions
by the Attorney General and dismissed Mabirizi’s applications with costs.
According to the Justices, Mabirizi was committed for criminal
contempt which they say is an offense that is subject to the inherent
jurisdiction of the Court which was in the discretion of that Court. To them therefore, this implies that the
sentence of a contemnor committed for criminal contempt is similar to any other
sentence under the criminal laws of Uganda.
According to them, there is no other law under which the contemnor can be released from jail pending his undeveloped appeal
other than an application for bail pending appeal.
The Justices said: "We are also of the view that the filing of numerous
applications where no appeal has been filed in this court amounts to an abuse
of Court process. The applications are similar to each other, all seeking the same
order though using different terms in the various applications for the release
of the contemnor from prison before the filing and hearing of his appeal in this
The Justices have further ruled that the applications appear
to them to be intended if not to intimidate the government
than to exert pressure on the Attorney General to agree that Mabirizi be
released from prison.
Quoting the decisions made by the High Court and Supreme
Court of India sometime back, the Justices have further noted that it was
held that "no advocate who has been found guilty of contempt of court
shall be permitted to appear, act or plead in any Court unless he has purged
himself of the contempt.”
"We therefore came to the conclusion that criminal contemnors
though pardonable cannot be purged. Since convictions and sentences resulting
from criminal contempt are final, the contemnor cannot purge his contempt by
simply paying a fine however large. However
the contemnor may apologize to the Court of which he or she was found to be in
contempt but such apology must be genuine, signifying that the contemnor is
truly contrite," said the Justices.
They added that the only remedy available is to appeal
against either both conviction and sentence.
Before taking leave of the case, the Justices who were led
by Mutangula Kibeedi have made an opinion that
the Chief Justice should in future consider the gravity of a case like this and
make rules under the Civil Procedure Act to provide for restrictions on litigation
by vexatious litigants.
They said that implementation of such rules would go a long way to
save the time of courts as well as to spare the limited resources that the
judiciary has to implement its mandate of ensuring access to justice for all to
The Justices say this because on the basis that Mabirizi has
made a habit of striking at all Judicial Officers who do not come up with
the decisions that he desires as corrupt or biased against them and files
several complaints and asks them to recuse and he is about to exhaust the limited
reserves of the Court of Appeal.
The decision has been read at the time when Mabirizi was not in
Court of Appeal but engaged in another Court pursuing his common nuisance case
against the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister and Nobert Mao.