DPP takes over Rajiv Ruparelia’s case file

Rajiv is accused of undertaking activities in the protected zones along riverbanks, lakeshores, and natural beaches contrary to Section 53 of the National Environment Act, 2019.

Businessman Rajiv Ruparelia (In Centre)

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The Director of Public Prosecutions-DPP has taken over the case against businessman Rajiv Ruparelia, who is accused of allegedly dumping soil in and on the shores of Lake Victoria.

In a letter dated January 6, the DPP notified Entebbe Chief Magistrate’s Court of the move.
State Attorney Timothy Amerit presented the letter before Grade One Magistrate Elizabeth Kabugho on Wednesday when the case came up for mention.

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Amerit cited Article 120 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution which provides powers to the DPP to take over proceedings initiated by individuals or other authorities at any stage. The case was filed by lawyer Male Mabirizi last month.

However, Mabirizi has protested the move to take over the case, saying the DPP wants to ‘kill’ the case.

Mabirizi said he moved to initiate private prosecution proceedings against Rajiv Ruparelia as a responsible citizen because NEMA and police would most likely not arrest or charge him for dumping soil.

He accuses Rajiv Ruparelia of undertaking activities in the protected zones along riverbanks, lakeshores, and natural beaches contrary to Section 53 of the National Environment Act, 2019.

The same Act provides for penalties, whereby a person on conviction may pay a fine not exceeding shillings 600 million or serve not more than 12 years in jail or both.

Rajiv Ruparelia nor his lawyer were present in court on Wednesday.

Amerit and Mabirizi asked the judicial officer to issue criminal summons against Rajiv. Mabirizi said it’s unconstitutional to hear the case in Rajiv’s absence. Kabugho however did not pronounce herself on either issue. She instead adjourned the case to February 21.

Last month, NEMA ordered Speke Hotel (1996) Limited to remove all the soil it has dumped into Lake Victoria before it can be allowed to resume construction works in Kitubulu, Katabi town council.

NEMA made the directive after meeting officials from Ruparelia Group which owns Speke Hotel.

The authority noted that there were concerns of lakeshore degradation from soil siltation into Lake Victoria, contrary to conditions of approval in the Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Certificate issued to the developer in 2020.

According to NEMA, Speke Hotel acquired a permit to build a hotel where Ssese Gateway Beach was previously located with the condition of maintaining the buffer zone of 100metres as provided for in the riverbanks and lakeshore use regulations, 2020. The hotel also applied for a permit to build a marina in the same place but NEMA, in a tweet on December 12, says the application was denied.

Speke Hotel, according to Rajiv Ruparelia, its manager, wants to construct a resort and convention centre on Lake Victoria shores in Kitubulu. The project is currently at the stage of ground leveling and construction.

However, NEMA halted the project on December 10, after a video of trucks dumping soil into the lake went viral on various social media platforms.

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