David Balondemu, a known lawyer has won a court case in which he sued the Law Development Centre (LDC) for cancelling his diploma in legal practice over allegations of examination malpractice.
Balondemu of Balondemu & Co. Advocates petitioned the High Court Civil Division in 2016 saying that he genuinely passed all his papers and that the decision by LDC to cancel his award “was irrational and irresponsible in as far as it was punishing the Applicant (Balondemu) for the weaknesses of their own system.”
This was after LDC put up a committee to investigate the alleged examination malpractice at the Centre in the academic years 2004/5 to 2010/11 after it emerged that marks were tampered with by way of white washing on the mark sheet. The forensic report indicated that about 100 lawyers have fake papers and subsequently cancelled several awards of lawyers.
Other lawyers who petitioned court over the same include; Fred Mukasa Mbidde and Mike Mabikke.
In his ruling, Justice Steven Musota ordered LDC to backtrack their decision cancelling Balondemu’s legal practice certificate saying that the Centre based on hearsay.
“The proceedings and the decision of the management committee of the respondent cancelling the applicant’s Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice is hereby quashed. The respondent (LDC) is hereby prohibited from recalling the applicant’s post graduate diploma in legal practice in any manner basing on the impugned proceedings without evidence of fraud, misconduct or error on the part of the applicant,” Musota ruled.
Musota added that whereas it was suspected that Balondemu could have been guilty of examination malpractice by altering marks on his answer script after final marking had been done, it is not clear who altered the marks. He added that Balondemu was not accorded fair hearing.
“An injunction is hereby issued against the respondent and all stakeholders are served with copies of the decision restraining them from acting upon the decision of the management committee until a proper procedure and hearing is given to the applicant in accordance with the rules of natural justice,” he said.
Balondemu, through his lawyer said that he was simply a student with no role to play in marking and awarding marks and that the Internal Examiner, Patrick Machika Mugisha said in his affidavit that the committee consulted him in respect of other candidates but did not consult him on the results of the applicant (Balondemu).
“There was no expert opinion on whether or not there was a change in handwriting as alleged and it was irrational for the committee to turn itself into handwriting expert or document analyst, since none of the members had qualification as a handwriting expert,” he said.
Balondemu was admitted to the Bar Course at LDC where he pursued his studies successfully up to the final term where he passed all subjects except criminal procedure in which he sat for supplementary examination and eventually passed.
When the results were published on LDC’s notice board, it was indicated that he had failed both commercial transactions and criminal proceedings. At the bottom of the published results it was indicated that any person dissatisfied with the results could seek verification of the results from the authorities.
On 12th April 2010, the Applicant wrote to the Head Bar course of the respondent institution seeking verification of his commercial transactions results which he believed was his favorite subject. Upon verification, it was discovered that he had actually passed because there had been an error in the tally of marks.
On the basis of this discovery, he did only one supplementary examination in criminal proceedings and passed. He then graduated on 3rd September 2010 and was awarded a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. He enrolled as an advocate of the High Court in 2011 and had practiced law since then.
However, on the 11th of August 2015 the respondent’s Management Committee Subcommittee invited him for a hearing. The Committee then found that some four marks in the Balondemu’s commercial transactions answer script appeared to be in different handwriting from the other marks awarded. The Management Committee Subcommittee did not invite the internal and external examiners to explain the variance in handwritings.
On the basis of the forensic report from the committee, LDC recalled Balondemu’s Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. He was dissatisfied with the manner in which this was done and filed this application.