The Vice President,Hon.Edward Ssekandi shaking hands with the Chief Justice,Hon Bart Katureebe at the opening of the New Law Year, looking on is the Speaker, Hon. Rebbecca Kadaga
Kampala: Celebrations to mark this year's opening of the New Law Year, for the first time in many years, attracted the heads of the three arms of the state.
The Vice President, Hon. Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi of the Executive arm of the State, presided over the event; whereas the Speaker, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, Deputy Speaker, Hon. Jacob Oulanyah, appeared for Parliament; and the host, the Chief Justice, Hon. Bart M. Katureebe for the Judiciary.
For the very first time, the Judiciary administration organized a luncheon for all invited VIPs, staff members, members of the Uganda Law Society (lawyers) and other invited guests.
"From today on, the opening of the New Law Year will be handled as a State function, with all the three arms of government being represented,"declared the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe.
Hon. Justice Katureebe called upon the government to consider increasing the budget of the Judiciary so as to have more criminal sessions and tackle case backlog saying failure will impact on the citizens especially those who have spent many years on remand in prison without their cases being heard in a long time.
He also castigated the Uganda Police Force arrests of suspects in the precincts of the court under the pretext of charging them with additional cases, saying it is a sign that the police and other security agencies are not obeying court orders, adding that it is a sign that state agencies do not uphold rule of law. "...this is a sad reminder that more still needs to be done to instill the rule of law in the institution charged with keeping law and order. I call upon the Uganda Police Force to refrain from flagrant abuse of the law," said the Chief Justice
The Chief Justice called for the fast-tracking of the proposal to hire retired Judges to boost the few Judges available. He also proposed that government could consider appointing retired judges to head various commissions and leave the existing judges to do judicial work.
In a speech the Vice President, Hon. Ssekandi, read on behalf of President Museveni, indicated that there were efforts to upgrade the status of the Judiciary to equal terms with the other two arms of the state - the Executive and the Legislature.
He said the Government is however, concerned about the increasing reports of corruption in the courts as well as congestion in the Prisons, which he said has now increased from 26.9 per cent to 45 per cent.
The President also complained about the increasing unprofessional conduct of lawyers - called upon the Uganda Law Society ensure that lawyers offer more legal aid services to the citizenry, and the errant characters are weeded out. Among other things, he promised to support the planned decentralization of the Court of Appeal, Commercial Court and the Anti Corruption Court.
The Speaker, Hon. Kadaga said she has been waiting since she was deputy speaker for the presentation of the Administration of the Judiciary Bill - she promised to quickly handle the Bill once tabled before Parliament.
Hon. Kadaga said Parliament had earlier on passed a resolution to increase the number of High Court judges from 50 to 82. "All that is required is for someone to come and pick up the resolution for implementation," she said.
She also said she would soon discuss with the Parliament Rules Committee the option of having to vet presidential appointees in the open, as many people have been demanding, a matter she said she has no big issue with once she gets a nod from her colleagues.
The President Uganda Law Society (ULS), Mr. Francis Gimara, thanked the Judiciary for coming up with new innovations such as Plea Bargaining, Sentencing Guidelines, among others, aimed at tackling the "monster of case backlog".
Mr. Gimara also decried of underfunding of the Judiciary despite being the third arm of government, and warned that that if the underfunding continues, then the citizens will get a raw deal in return for justice.
In response to the ULS President's concern, the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Hon. Kahinda Otafiire, said the government funding capacity was at its lowest. He was however, quick to add that remuneration for the judges had been increased for senior leadership, and would gradually be increased for the other cadre in due course.
Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Otafiire promised to table the long awaited Administration of the Judiciary Bill before Parliament within February, 2017.
The Attorney General, Hon. Mr. William Byaruhanga, the head of the Bar, equally stressed the need to tackle the elephant of corruption in the Judiciary - a call which had earlier on been emphasised by His Eminence the Archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese, His Eminence Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, while leading the opening prayers.
Posted 31st, January 2017