After almost two months of discussion and postponements, beleaguered High Court Judge, Justice Okumu Wengi, has finally had his day in court.
Justice Wengi is seeking to reverse a recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission to indefinitely suspend him from office. The recommendation was acted upon by President Yoweri Museveni in September this year.
Justice Wengi was interdicted pending the conclusion of an investigation into allegations improper conduct leveled against him. His woes stem from charges brought against him by Asian business moguls, the Gandesha family, that he demanding a 500,000 dollar bribe from them seven years ago. The judge is also accused of corruption, forgery, impropriety and the fraudulent perversion of justice.
Justice Wengi's lawyer, Peter Walubiri, told court today that the Judicial Service Commission did not inform the judge of the particulars of the charges made against him and did not offer him an opportunity to defend himself. The lawyer said it was unfair for the Commission to make recommendations to the President before hearing Wengi's defence.
According to Walubiri, this was not the first time his client had not received direct communication regarding his official duties. He said that in 2004, Justice Wengi was arbitrarily transferred from the Commercial Court to the Civil Division of the High Court. The judge did not receive an official explanation for the transfer and only learned later that the move was ordered by the Chief Justice, Benjamin Odoki who had received complaints from the Gandesha family.
Walubiri asked the presiding judge, Justice Kibuuka Musoke, to reverse the recommendation for the suspension of Justice Odoki. He also asked court to grant his client general damages amounting to 100 million shillings.
Justice Musoke asked the State to file its written submission on December 29th and will he make a ruling on the application on January 31st 2007.