By Andrew Irumba
Kampala: Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng has been ordered by High Court Civil Division to pay a fine of Shs20m for contempt and refusal to comply with court orders.
The fine was slapped on Aceng by Justice Musa Ssekana and 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.It all started in 2017, when 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 prayed to court to quash the Minister’s directive on May 19th, 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 24th, 2018, Justice Musa Ssekana delivered a ruling in Ekau’s favor and 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 her and the Attorney General for contempt of court. He asked court to commit the minister to civil prisons for contempt of court. However, in her response to the petition, through State Attorney Charity Nabasa, Aceng argued 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.
However, on Monday, Justice Ssekaana ruled that Minister’s justification for not complying with the previous order was unreasonable, illegal and irregular. He thus fined her Shs20 for intentional disobedience of lawful orders. Ssekaana stated thus; “The purpose of the fine is to send a firm message to the respondents (Aceng) and other would be contenders that, court orders are not issued in vain and ought to be respected and obeyed as long as they remain in force.”
Ssekaana also stated 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.” However, he declined committing the minister to civil prison, as that would give her more excuses for not implementing the court orders.