Uganda: Health Minister Fined Shs 20m for Contempt of Court

High court judge, Musa Ssekana has slapped a fine of Shs 20 million on Health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng for contempt of court.

The fine stems from a petition by David Ekau challenging the minister's decision to block him from being inaugurated as a representative of the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda to the National Drug Authority in 2017.

In 2017, Ekau petitioned the High court civil division seeking a judicial review against the decision by the attorney general and Aceng to block his inauguration. He asked court to quash the minister's directive on May 19, 2017 barring him from being inaugurated on the NDA as a representative of the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda.

Ekau also asked court to compel the minister to provide him the terms of reference as a representative of the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda to the National Drug Authority. On August 24, 2018, Justice Ssekana delivered a ruling in Ekau's favour. He directed the respondents to ensure that Ekau is inaugurated within 30 days of the ruling.

However, Aceng ignored the court orders prompting Ekau to sue them for contempt of court. He asked court to commit the minister to civil prisons for contempt of court. In her response to the petition, through Charity Nabasa, a state attorney, Aceng said that they shouldn't be found guilty of contempt of court orders simply because they filed an appeal seeking to stay the execution of the orders.

But in his ruling on Monday, Justice Ssekaana noted that minister's justification for not complying with the previous order was unreasonable, illegal and irregular. He therefore slapped her with a fine of Shs 20 million for intentional disobedience of lawful orders.

"The purpose of the fine is to send a firm message to the respondents (Aceng) and other would be contemnors that, court orders are not issued in vain and ought to be respected and obeyed as long as they remain in force", Ssekaana said in his judgment.

Ssekaana noted that Ekau has been out of office since January 2017 when the inauguration took place till to date and should be paid all his entitlements and monetary benefits including allowances until when he takes office as the 'elected representative of the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda.

He declined to commit the minister to civil prison, saying she would get the more excuses for not implementing the court orders.

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