By Joan Akello
Following the Constitutional Court ruling this afternoon in favour of the petitioner against his reappointment, the former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki says he is ready to handover to his successor, something he has wanted to do since his retirement in 2013.
“I retired last year so I’m a former CJ and I’m a pensioner,” Odoki Told the Independent, “I am not unfit but that is the opinion of the judges.”
Four justices of the Constitutional Court, Remmy Kasule, Lillian Ekirikubinza Tibatemwa, Solome Bossa and Eldad Mwangusya have ruled that the president’s move to reappoint Retired Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki is unconstitutional. The fifth judge, Justice Rubby Aweri Opio however dissented.
Reading the main ruling, Tibatemwa said that reappointing Odoki would violate key provisions of the Constitution regarding the appointment of the Chief Justice and concurred with the petitioner, Gerald Karuhanga Western Youth Legislator, that by clocking 70 years, Odoki had reached the peak of the constitutional mandatory retirement age, which is 70 years.
After the ruling, Karuhanga told The Independent, “I am exceedingly excited for the unemployed youth. This ruling gives a strong message of hope in country where most people have seen only one regime and thereof a statement that when you retire, you must retire.”
Karuhanga filed the Constitutional Petition on July 26, 2013 saying the reappointment is inconsistent with and is in contravention of Articles 130, 133, 142 (1) and others of the Constitution of Uganda. This follows President Museveni’s letter dated July 9, l 2013 addressed to the chairman of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Justice James Ogoola that Odoki be given a two-year contract in order to “maximise the services of our human resource” yet JSC had forwarded three names, Principal Judge Bamwine and; Justices of the Supreme Court Bart Magunda Katureebe, and Esther Kisaakye. JSC recommended Katureebe but Museveni did not nominate him but rather forwarded Odoki to the Appointments Committee for parliamentary approval. It hit a dead end pending the disposal of Karuhanga’s petition.
Karuhanga was not awarded any costs but declarations because his lawyers have previously walked out of court during the life of the petition.