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Lawyer Mabirizi asks court to halt recruitment process of judicial officers

Male Mabirizi has petitioned the High Court seeking to halt the recruitment process of judicial officers citing several regularities. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | City lawyer Male Mabirizi has petitioned the High Court seeking to halt the recruitment process of judicial officers by Judicial Service Commission.

Mabirizi in documents filed before the Civil Division wants an injunction restraining the Commission from proceeding with the process undertaken and decisions it has reached in shortlisting, interviewing, appointing and recommending to the President for appointment of applicants for judicial officers.

He wants the Commission, a statutory body charged with the recruitment and regulation of the conduct of judicial officers restrained until the determination of the main case which is challenging the legality of the process being followed to conduct the recruitment.

On February 1, 2021, the Judicial Service Commission issued an external advert number one of 2021 in which it sought to fill positions of a Justice of Supreme Court, Justices of Appeal, High Court Judges, Deputy Registrars, Assistant Registrars, Chief Magistrates and Magistrates Grade One.

However, according to Mabirizi, the closing dates for submission of applications were stated to be February 15, 2021 at 5pm with a note that only shortlisted candidates shall be contacted. But they reportedly acted contrary to universally known practices of shortlisting.

“I know that contrary to universally known practice that before shortlisting, all applicants are subjected to standard examinations or credentials where an applicant can know why he or she is left out. The Judicial Service Commission organized no exam, no questions and no known methodology of selecting shortlisted applicants,” reads Mabirizi’s application in part.

He argues that instead of considering the known procedures, between April and May 2021, the Commission members and staff started contacting their preferred applicants for interviews without following any criteria for contacting such people.

According to his evidence, the said secretive non-verifiable method had led to a piecemeal shortlisting based on nepotism and other corruption-related practices and some of the interviews are scheduled starting May 31, 2021.

“Indeed I know that it is people connected to the members of the Judicial Service Commission that have been contacted for interviews,” adds the application.

Mabirizi for instance cites Chief Magistrate Patricia Amoko whom he says is a biological daughter of Supreme Court Judge Stella Arach Amoko, a member of the Commission who has reportedly been shortlisted for the position of Deputy Registrar leaving out more senior Chief Magistrates.

According to Mabirizi who argues that he will suffer irreparable damages if the injunction is not granted, the example of Justice Amoko’s daughter is just a tip since almost all those privately contacted for interviews are allegedly connected to the Judicial Service Commission staff and members.

But when contacted the Spokesperson for Judicial Service Commission Maria Nabulya on the alleged irregularities in the recruitment process, she said that it is being conducted normally.

Nabulya noted that the advert for those wishing to be appointed into various positions was put in newspapers and if Mabirizi has any evidence, he can take it to the chairperson of the Commission for investigations.

A few days ago, Mabirizi filed a similar case and it was allocated to Justice Musa Ssekaana the head of the High Court Civil Division. But after learning about it, he quickly withdrew the case and reinstated this one which is yet to be allocated to a Judge.

The government which is yet to be summoned to file its defense is the only listed respondent in the matter.

Mabirizi’s application comes at the time when Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and other top leaders in the judiciary have occasionally appealed to the president to increase the number of judicial officers to help them fight case backlog which is currently crippling the justice system.

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