The Uganda Supreme Court based on a British case law of 1700s to convict Ivan Samuel Ssebadduka for contempt of court during the hearing of his petition against electoral rules and sentenced him for three years in jail.
The ruling last week against Ssebadduka, who threw insults at the judges, was the first of its kind at the highest court in the land against the normal course where contempt of court is handled by the High Court.
The seven jurors cited a 1765 opinion of Justice Wilmot of King’s Bench in Britain during the trial of a journalist, John Almon, stressing that attacking judges is fatal obstruction of justice and needs immediate redress.
“Attacks on judges” the jury quoted Wilmot, “is the most fatal and dangerous obstruction of justice and calls for a more rapid and immediate redress that any other obstruction whatsoever”, according to a copy seen by Kigali Law Tidings.
The jury said that the immediacy of punishing Ssebadduka’s insults at the court, required the Supreme Court itself to convict him of contempt of court without taking long procedures through the High Court.
“It is thus proper that the contempt of court that is committed should be handled expeditiously and in a timely manner which is something not easily achievable through the ordinary criminal trial process” the court commented.
In September 2020, Ssebadduka, the chief editor at Journal of True Science, submitted a petition to the Supreme Court challenging the requirement for signatures of supporters for one to qualify for presidential elections, citing Covid-19 spread.
The hearing scheduled for 7 September led by the Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo was instead a ‘chance’ for the petitioner Ssebadduka to utter insults to the judges and against the court itself.
“Were you drunk to fix the hearing date or you were under the influence of drugs?” Ssebadduka asked the judges adding that “Unfortunate you do not have common sense which is common”
The jury was shocked as they watched the petition ironically becoming a stage of insults while Ssebadduka called them “centre of injustice”, “stupid judges”, “council of fools”, and many more.
The jury leveled contempt of court against the 36-year old man and scheduled early November 2020 for him to defend himself against holding him guilty and punish him for contempt of court.
Onto appearing, he made it clear that he had deliberately submitted a petition in order to get a stage to express his “total disgust and disregard for the authority of the Supreme Court”.
“We did not offend you, you so-called Supreme Court. This is not a court in the first place” he said, concluding that “may your foolishness increase tenfold because that is what you deserve”
“Having found that Sebaduka committed the offence of contempt of the court, we must impose on him such sentence as is commensurate with the gravity of the offence” the jury said in the ruling last week.
“In the result” the jury said “the court sentences the contemnor herein to serve three years in prison”
The Supreme Court is the highest court in Uganda which means Sebaduka cannot appeal the sentence.