Last year, Uganda’s Supreme Court clarified the jurisprudence on contempt of court. In Betty Kizito vs Dickson Nsubuga & 6 others (Civil Application Nos.25 & 26 of 2021 arising from Civil Appeal No.8 of 2018), the supreme court addressed the nature of contempt proceedings as well as the distinction between criminal contempt and civil contempt.

The justices held that contempt proceedings are between the alleged contemnor and the court. The party who takes out a motion for contempt is merely relying information to the court about an alleged contempt but the actual proceedings are really between the court whose orders have been defied and the contemnor.

Further, the justices ruled that the key distinction between criminal contempt and civil contempt is that the former happens in the presence of court when a contemnor interferes with the court’s ability to function properly. Criminal contempt, the court ruled, may take the form, inter alia, of yelling at a judge presiding over a case, insolvent (sic?) language and assaulting persons in the courts.

On the other hand, civil contempt occurs outside the court’s realm and usually takes the form of disregarding court orders and judgments. Civil contempt must be brought to the court’s notice by the parties. The Justices ruled that the applicant or litigant who brings alleged contemptuous conduct to the attention of court does not become party to the proceedings as he/she merely assists court by furnishing information about the alleged contempt. The court approved of the ratio of Mubiru J in Florence Dawaru vs Angumale Albino & Another

You can find the ruling of the court here

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