This case related to a short-lived government tax on mobile money deposits. As Judge Ssekaana Musa explained, however, the issue involved had been sorted out well before the matter was argued, and the disputed provision withdrawn. So, what was the point in the litigation, asked the judge. Was it to boost the litigants’ popularity?
Judge Ssekaana Musa:
“I wonder why the applicants decided to file this application. Was it over zealousness or trying to gain some popularity out of a court case?
“The present application falls in the mootness doctrine which bars court from deciding moot cases; that is cases in which there is no longer any actual controversy. The exercise of judicial power depends upon existence of a case or controversy.
“Therefore the courts will not hear or decide a case unless it includes an issue that is not considered moot because it involves the public interest or constitutional questions. Courts should be slow to embark upon unnecessary wide and general enquiry and should confine their decisions as far as may reasonably practicable within the narrow limits of the controversy arising between the parties in the particular case.
“The court should not decide issues in abstract. The court cannot embark upon an enquiry whether there was any misuse or abuse of power in a particular case, unless relief is sought by the person who is said to have been wronged by the misuse or abuse of power. This application disguises as public interest litigation without any sufficient proof of any damage suffered apart from general statement that money was allegedly collected from the general public.
“The function of a Court of law is to decide an actual case and to right actual wrongs and not to exercise the mind by indulging in unrewarding academic casuistry or in pursuing the useless aim of jousting with windfalls.”
High Court of Uganda, Civil Division
Turyakira v Uganda Revenue Authority
Read the judgment
- Newsletter, Judicial Institute for Africa (Jifa), 14 March 2019