Supreme court justice Esther Kisaakye has sued her boss also the chief justice, Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and five judicial officials over what she termed as a continued witch hunt against her.
In the petition filed before the Constitutional court, Kisaakye who is seeking 24 orders among dozens of other declarations, wants the record showing that she has been away without official leave quashed and be assigned duties and reinstated as the administrative head of the Supreme court.
Jointly sued with Owiny-Dollo are Dr Pius Bigirimana the permanent secretary to the judiciary, Sarah Langa Siu the chief registrar of Courts of Judicature, Apophia Tumwine the commissioner of human resources judiciary, the Judicial Service Commission and the Attorney General.
Kisaakye says that effective March 18, 2021, during the presidential election petition case filed by Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu against President Yoweri Museveni, the respondents have jointly and consistently engaged in acts that are inconsistent with the constitution.
These actions she says include the confiscation of her file by Owiny-Dollo before she could read her decision arising from that presidential petition, closure of the Supreme court on the orders of the chief justice on March 19, 2021, and the issuance of a deceitful and defamatory press statement and denial of funds for her medical treatment.
The other acts listed by Kisaakye include the failure to recognize and or follow seniority at the Supreme court, secretive investigations against her disguised as a general inquiry, denial of leave, denial of her driver and bodyguards leave and allowances, refusal to allocate her work by the chief justice, withdrawal and refusal to reinstate her research assistant, denial of a letter of undertaking to her bankers and her subsequent removal from the judiciary and government payroll.
According to the evidence before the court, the chief justice directed police officers to close the Supreme court gate to prevent court users and the media from accessing the court and consequently prevented Kisaakye from delivering her ruling to the parties.
The evidence indicates that on the same day, Owiny-Dollo acting through the judiciary public relations office and the principal communications officer issued a deceitful and defamatory press release about what transpired at the Supreme court to all national and international media. According to Kisaakye, the said press statement carried malicious, damaging and false statements against her and as well as her work.
She adds that by virtue of her appointment, and terms of service she is entitled to medical treatment. But on October 1, 2020, and April 12, 2021, she requested for financial support for travel to the United States of America to complete her eye surgery and treatment which is not available in Uganda, and for the purchase of reading glasses. However, she adds, Bigirimana declined to release or refund the money despite the earlier medical board approval and commitment by the judiciary.
"That other justices of the Supreme court and other lower courts who required treatment outside the country have always been provided with resources by the judiciary to undertake such treatment out where such treatment is not available in Uganda," reads the petition.
It adds that the chief justice did not intervene to make sure that Kisaakye gets the necessary resources for her surgery, treatment, travel, and upkeep. The evidence before the court further shows that following the presidential election petition aftermath, Owiny-Dollo summarily removed Kisaakye as the administrative justice of the Supreme court and replaced her with justices junior to her.
"That constitutionally, the position of the administrator of the Supreme court is a preserve for the most senior member of the Supreme court after the chief justice... that the 1st respondent’s (chief justice) removal of your petitioner as administrator judge of the Supreme court replacing her with justices junior to your petitioner is inconsistent with articles.... of the constitution”, reads the petition.
It further shows that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) started secretive inquiries against Kisaakye and solicited a complaint from Owiny-Dollo.
"On 6 April 2021, the 1st respondent/chief justice submitted a statement titled 'Referral of Justice Kisaakye' to the 5th respondent/Judicial Service Commission which was received on the same day wherein the 1st respondent/Owiny-Dollo attacked your petitioner for exercising her judicial independence and made abusive and derogatory statements against your petitioner among others about her mental health, character and upbringing", reads the petition.
It adds that whereas this was received by the Judicial Service Commission in April 2021, it was kept secret from Kisaakye until November 2021 when she was asked to respond to the same in 14 days.
“...But the 5th respondent/JSC singled out the petitioner for secretive investigations disguised as a general inquiry and neglected or ignored all other complaints made against other Justices of the supreme court and the 1st respondent/Chief Justice by the public, media report, Male Mabirizi and by Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu," adds the petition.
Kisaakye further argues that later on July 25, 2022, the Judicial Service Commission served her with a preliminary findings report on the events that happened during the petition and it is at this time when she realized that she had been under covert investigations a year earlier. She accuses the Attorney General/government to have on August 23, 2022, dismissed her grievances as being premature and not in violation of any provision of the constitution when brought to the government's attention.
Court records show that on March 3, 2020, the Judiciary human resource officer counted her leave days to be 181 days and submitted it to then chief justice Bart Katureebe who allowed her to take 35 days and deferred the rest. But when she asked for leave on December 22, 2020, Owiny Dollo allegedly ignored her and she kept working to date - having never received her signed forms.
"That your petitioner duly completed her leave and resumed her duties on June 2022 but the 1st and 2nd respondent turned around and accused your petitioner of having been away from the office without official leave since September 2021," says Kisaakye.
Through her lawyers of KBW Advocates, Kisaakye says it’s unconstitutional for Owiny-Dollo to exclude her from duty rosters and case lists and deny her work and also deny her bodyguards allowances because it is discriminatory and amounts to victimization.
"That your petitioner was consequently removed from the judiciary and government payroll and was not paid her salary and benefits for July and August 2022 to her great financial and social embarrassment, general inconvenience, mental anguish and adverse publicity and institutional ridicule," reads Kisaakye’s case.
Court records show that on August 24, 2022, Housing Finance Bank wrote to Kisaakye saying her salary had not been received from the judiciary and such nonpayment was going to adversely affect her salary loan repayment.
According to Kisaakye, all the accusations against the respondents were done without following due process and she wants the Constitutional court to determine if such actions are not inconsistent with dozens of the articles of the Constitution.
The lady justice further wants the court to order Owiny-Dollo to return her confiscated files and then after be allowed to deliver her rulings in the presidential election petition after. She also wants the judiciary press release of March 19, 2021, retracted from national and international press and removed from the judiciary website, and an apology published in the same national and international press and on the judiciary website for 5 years to remedy the damages caused to her and the Supreme court of Uganda.,
The Constitutional court Registrar earlier in the morning summoned the respondents to submit their defence within seven days after being served with a copy of this petition or else the court will proceed in their absence. Last week, lawyer Male Mabirizi also filed a case challenging some of the issues raised by Dr Kisaakye in her Constitutional petition.