By Juliet Kigongo
The Court of Appeal has granted permission to Rubaga South Member of Parliament Paul Kato Lubwama to appeal against a decision that allowed a voter to file an election petition out of time.
Three Justices of the Appeal Court: Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Elizabeth Musoke and Irene Mulyagonja unanimously granted the legislator permission to file his appeal within 14 days.
"Leave (permission) is, hereby, granted to the applicant to file an appeal against the decision in High Court, such an appeal to be filed within 14 days of this order. The registrar shall ensure that the appeal is placed before a panel of judges for expeditious disposal by this court as is required in election matters," the judges ordered on Tuesday.
The judges ruled that hearing of the election petition against Mr Lubwama shall abide by the hearing and determination of the appeal to be filed.
The court ruling now renders insignificant efforts by a voter Habib Buwembo, who sought to challenge the election of Mr Kato Lubwama on grounds of insufficient academic documents.
In December 2016, Justice Margaret Oumo Oguli ruled that Mr Buwembo was free to challenge the MP's election.
The judge ruled that there was unchallenged evidence on court record showing Mr Lubwama lied to the Electoral Commission that he possesses a valid certificate of Ordinary Level Education from Old Kampala Secondary School whereas not.
However, through his lawyers, the legislator ran to court seeking permission to appeal against the High Court decision in which Mr Buwembo was allowed to file a petition challenging his seat.
The Court of Appeal reasoned that the order staying the hearing of the election petition is not merely to prevent the hearing of the case but to enable the court to consider the application afresh to determine whether the leave to file election petitions ought to be granted after expiry of the 30 days as provided by the law.
"With regard to the first principle, it has been established that there is need to look into the decision of the trial judge as to whether applications for leave to extend time set by section 60(3) EPA ought to be granted by the courts. Therefore, the condition that there is a prima facie case justifying an appeal has been satisfied," Court ruled.
Mr Buwembo petitioned the High Court challenging Mr Lubwama's election saying the MP failed Ordinary Level examinations and scored result 7, which he could not have used to sit Mature Age entry exams that allowed him to study a diploma in Music, Dance and Drama at Makerere University, which he later sued to stand for Rubaga South seat.
Mr Lubwama maintains his diploma is authentic because he acquired it after sitting and passing special exams at Makerere University. But Mr Buwembo says the current term of the 10th Parliament is soon expiring and yet the Court of Appeal has not yet disposed of his matter to pave way for the High Court to determine his substantive election petition.