Six of seven justices of Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Hassan Basajjabalaba and his brother Muzamiru challenging their trial in the Anti-Corruption Court for tax evasion.
Muzamiru and Hassan Basajjabalaba face charges of forgery of a judicial document, uttering a false document and conspiring to evade Shs20bn in taxes.
Their troubles started when a concerned citizen instituted criminal proceedings against them for evading taxes worth Shs20bn.
The Shs20bn was supposed to be hewed off the Shs142bn compensation received from government for cancellation of lease contracts for the development of city markets.
The Basajjabalaba brothers appeared before Buganda Road Court, were granted Shs30m cash bail each and ordered to deposit their passports in court.
But Hassan obtained his passport, and sought to travel to Nairobi but was intercepted at the Entebbe International Airport and was detained in Kireka.
On January 16, 2015, Hassan Basajjabalaba was paraded before the Anti-Corruption Court and charged with the same tax evasion counts.
Meanwhile, proceedings for the same case happened, in a parallel manner, at both the Buganda Road Court and the Anti-Corruption Court.
The Directorate of Public prosecution (DPP) would later order the withdrawal of the charges in the Buganda Road Court.
In the Anti-Corruption Court, the Basajjabalaba brothers were charged afresh and remanded to Luzira Prison.
They were later granted bail (for a total of Shs100m) only for the same to be cancelled.
The duo rushed to the Constitutional Court challenging the withdrawal of charges from Buganda Road Court in their absence as well the quick cancellation of the bail for which they had paid a lot of money.
The Constitutional Court ruled on the petition on May 02, 2018.
By the time of the ruling, Justice Remmy Kasule was the only member of the panel that heard the Basajjabalaba Brothers’ petition still in the Constitutional Court.
He delivered the ruling on behalf of his colleagues: Opio Aweri, Eldard Mwangushya, Steven Kavuma and Solomy Barungi Bbosa.
The panel ruled that there were indeed violations at the onset of the prosecution of the Basajjabalaba Brothers.
But they dismissed the claim that the charges before the Anti-Corruption Court were illegal.
Thus, they ordered the transfer of the file to the Anti-Corruption Court for Muzamiru and Hassan to be tried.
But the Basajjabalaba Brothers ran to the Supreme Court seeking the nullification of the Constitutional Court ruling and praying for the blocking of their trial.
In their ruling on November 19, 2021, Justices Ezekiel Muhanguzi, Faith Mwondha, Stella Arach Amoko, Mike Chibita, Lillian Tibatemwa and Percy Night Tuhaise agreed to dismiss the Basajjabalaba petition while Justice Esther Kisakye dissented.
Justice Kisakye had led the panel while Justice Mwondha wrote the lead judgement.
The six ruled that the Constitutional Court judgement was legal and valid since the judges who signed it had done so while they were still recognized members of the court.
with a 6:1 majority (Justice Kisakye dissented). Justice Mwondha wrote the lead judgement.
“We say this because in our view, much as the date of delivery is the day it takes effect, it is not the day the decision is made. We think neither the interest of justice nor public policy would demand that a decision of five Judges be invalidated because one of the judges who participated in the decision retired or died before the decision was pronounced,” ruled the Justices.
“I therefore reject the appellant’s counsel argument that since some of the Justices had ceased to be members of the Constitutional Court at the time of delivery of judgement, the decision is by reason thereof a nullity.”