The Court of Appeal has this morning dismissed the bail appeal application of jailed National Unity Platform party lawmakers Muhammad Ssegirinya of Kawempe North and his co-accused Makindye West MP Allan Sewanyana.
The judge ruled that his court lacks the jurisdiction to make a decision on a matter that has not been concluded by the lower courts as the accused are neither sentenced nor convicted of the pressed criminal charges.
“Court can only rule on the right of appeal where there is conviction or sentence,” the judge ruled in favour of a concern raised by state prosecutor Richard Birivumbuka. “Court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the appeal. It is incumbent upon the high court to fix the trial date. We direct that the files of the accused persons are placed before the principal judge of the high court to ensure a speedy trial,” the ruling further read. The judgement insisted that the appeal is incompetent on grounds raised by state prosecution.
However, legal pundits are concerned with the fact that court has left out some reasonable grounds like the fact that the accused are duly elected Members of Parliament with legislative duties to execute and the lengthy period they’ve spent on remand. Also a prime factor raised is that the suspects were given a cash bail of UGX 20m by the lower courts.
The judgement implies that the fate of the accused MPs now hang in thin air with little or no hope of release.
“That ruling effectively means that the MPs have completely lost their constitutional right to bail before trial. What if the lower court sets a date four or more months ahead for hearing of the criminal case? Does that mean that the MPs will remain legally incacerated until then? I think this is grossly unfair. The court should have given direction as to which court the Appellants should seek redress on their bail application before the substantive case hearing,” opined one legal pundit privy to the trial.