The Court of Appeal (COA) has granted the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) the opportunity to appeal a high court ruling that had previously directed it to pay sh2.3 billion to John Imaniraguha, the proprietor of Fuelex Filling Station. The ruling, delivered on November 3, 2023, by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, offers URA a lifeline to contest the decision.
The basis for the disputed payment is elucidated in court documents, which clarify that the money pertains to the expenses incurred for repairing vehicles seized by URA and compensation for the confiscated fuel.
Justice Bamugemereire, in her decision, mentioned that the costs of this application will be contingent upon the outcome of the main appeal. She specified a schedule for the parties involved, requiring URA to file and serve written submissions by November 9, 2023, with a deadline for any reply by November 14, 2023, and, if necessary, a rejoinder by November 17, 2023.
The ruling was issued in the presence of legal representatives from both sides. URA was represented by lawyers Alex Alidekki, Rodney Mishambi Amanya Rodne, and Ronald Baluku Masamba, while lawyer MacDusman Kabega represented John Imaniraguha, the owner of Fuelex Filling Station.
During the hearing, lawyer Kabega sought the dismissal of URA’s application for a stay of execution of the high court order, citing a notice of appeal filed out of the stipulated time. However, Justice Bamugemereire acknowledged that URA had applied for an extension of time to file an appeal and deemed this as a sufficient step toward having the appeal validated.
Notably, the appeal had been filed 13 days beyond the statutory time limit set by rule 76 of the court’s rules. Additionally, it was revealed that John Imaniraguha had initiated execution proceedings, obtained a decree, submitted a bill of costs, and secured a garnishee order nisi. A garnishee order nisi is a court order served on financial institutions, banks, or individuals believed to hold the funds of a judgment debtor.
However, on October 30, 2023, the Deputy Registrar-Commercial division, acting on Principal Judge Flavian Zeija’s instructions, unilaterally revoked the garnishee order nisi, sparking further controversy.
During the appeal hearing, lawyer Kabega questioned the jurisdiction of the court to consider the application in the absence of a valid notice of appeal or confirmation of its validation. He argued that the notice of appeal was filed 27 days after the High Court’s decision, exceeding the 13-day grace period specified in rule 76 (2) of the court’s rules.
In response, lawyer Alidekki contended that Justice Bamugemereire had the authority as a single Justice to preside over the matter and make a judgment on its merits. He pointed to rule 5 of the Court of Appeal Rules, which offers an opportunity for URA to regularize its belatedly filed notice of appeal.
Alidekki further invoked rule 5 (1), which empowers the court to extend the time for filing an appeal if there are sufficient reasons. He also emphasized that URA had a pending application before the full bench of the Court of Appeal, seeking an extension of time to file and serve the notice of appeal outside the stipulated timeframe.