The Supreme Court has said it will at a later date rule on who between Bank of Uganda (BoU) and Crane Bank in receivership pays the legal costs to businessman Sudhir Ruparelia in the multibillion commercial dispute.
This follows submissions by Mr Ruparelia’s lawyers led by Peter Kabatsi yesterday, asking the justices of the Supreme Court to order Bank of Uganda (BoU) to pay costs to his client. The submissions were before justices Rubby Opio Aweri, Faith Mwondha, Lillian Tibatemwa, Ezekiel Muhanguzi and Percy Tuhaise.
The lawyers, Mr Kabatsi, Mr Joseph Matsiko and Mr Elison Karuhanga, argued that BoU was primarily behind the multibillion commercial dispute against the businessman and not Crane Bank in receivership as portrayed by the central bank’s lawyers.
“It would cause a lot of injustice if BoU lawyers turn around to say the ‘shadow’ should bear the costs of the suit. The withdrawal of the appeal could only be effective after all issues in the matter are ruled on,” Counsel Kabatsi submitted.
The contention of who pays costs to the property mogul follows the withdrawal of the appeal in which Crane Bank in receivership had sought to quash the lower court’s decisions in which they held that the bank did not have powers to sue Mr Ruparelia.
On August 29, 2019, then presiding judge David Wangutusi dismissed the commercial dispute on grounds that Crane Bank in receivership lost its legal powers to sue or be sued when it was placed under receivership.
Mr Kabatsi said the central bank should foot the costs of the withdrawn case because the Commercial Court and the Court of Appeal had ordered it to pay costs because it had been handling the matter from the outset.
He further argued that Crane Bank is no longer in existence, hence it cannot be ordered to pay costs since it had been closed by BoU.
Counsel Kabatsi also rejected the claim that the appeal had been withdrawn. BoU had reportedly attempted to withdraw the same appeal in September, a move he said was calculated to avoid paying his client costs that are expected to be astronomical.
“So the appeal, until this court directs otherwise, is still pending that is why it was cause-listed today for mention. My Lords, that notice of withdrawal, purports the reversal of who pays the costs,” Mr Kabatsi submitted.
BoU’s lawyer, Mr Albert Byamugisha, however, maintained that the appeal has since been withdrawn and that they do not have interest in prosecuting it.
Mr Byamugisha said the BoU legal officer, Ms Margaret Kasule, swore an affidavit as an official in receivership. He concluded that the central bank cannot, therefore, be held liable to pay costs.