Uganda: Law Council On Spot Over Defying Court Orders

10 October 2019

The Uganda Law Council is on spot for allegedly defying a court order to issue a practicing certificate of eligibility to a Kampala-based lawyer.

In January this year, a panel of three justices of the High Court, in its judgment for judicial review, ordered the Law Council to issue a practicing certificate to Mr Tony Katungi within 30 days from the date of its verdict but nine months later, their order is yet to be implemented.

Mr Katungi has now petitioned court again to declare that the Law Council is in contempt of its earlier orders.

"A declaration that the Law Council is in contempt of court for refusing, ignoring and failing to implement the order of this honourable court contained in the ruling of January 25, 2019 in Misc Cause No. 204 of 2017 directing them to issue to the applicant (Mr Katungi), a certificate of eligibility," the court records read in part.

The judges who made the decision were; Henrietta Wolayo, Lydia Mugambe and Musa Ssekaana.

The Uganda Law Council is the overall regulatory body of the legal profession in Uganda.

The background to this case is that Mr Katungi studied his law degree from Uganda Christian University (UCU), Mukono, where he graduated in 2011 but went to Kenya from where he studied the post graduate diploma in law.

Mr Katungi in 2013, successfully completed his Bar course training at the Kenya Law School and was admitted to the Kenyan Bar on January 23, 2014 as an advocate of the High Court where he worked as such in 2014.

He then returned to Uganda and applied to the Law Council for a certificate eligibility for enrollment as an advocate but he was denied the certificate on grounds that he needed to re-do a one year of supervised practice at Justice Centers Uganda.

Mr Katungi rejected the request by the Law Council to re-do one more year of training and instead applied to the High Court for review of its decision saying the same was illegal.

In their decision in January, the three judges faulted the Law Council for having not taken into consideration of Mr Katungi's work at a Kenyan law firm or the training he did at Kenya law school.

The justices also reasoned that the Uganda Law Council should be alive of East African Community federation which requires Uganda to harmonise its national laws in respect of the legal profession

"The applicant (Mr Katungi) having qualified and obtained a law degree from Uganda Christian University in 2011 and later passed the post graduate diploma in law at Kenya law school in 2013, his name was duly entered on the Roll of Advocates of the High Court of Kenya and he dully worked as an advocate for one year in a law firm of Oriari & Co. Advocates and was dully qualified to be entered on the Roll of Advocates of Uganda," held the justices.

"There is no basis to deny the applicant his right to practice his profession as envisaged under Article 40 (2) of the Constitution. The applicant (Mr Katungi), satisfied all the statutory requirements for issuance of a certificate of eligibility," the jurists further ruled.

It's out of this decision that the three judges went on and made a generalized pronunciation to the Law Council to enter onto the Roll of Advocates, all those Ugandans who obtained their law degrees from outside the country so that they can practice law like their counterparts who studied from here as long as they meet the requirements.

"In today's world, the Law Council needs to be alive to the fact that many Ugandans study law degrees out of the country not because there are intellectually incompetent but simply because the numbers of students who qualify are many for the universities and the LDC to accommodate. There is therefore need for the Law Council not to unfairly discriminate these students in comparison to those who study in Uganda," ruled the trio justices.

Mr Katungi also wants court to declare that the sitting members of the Law Council are personally in contempt of court and should be sanctioned accordingly.

He also wants court to commit the said Law Council members to the civil prison for being in contempt.

Court is set to sit on October 16 to hear out Mr Katungi's compliant.

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