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Parliament wants law to regulate judges on special assignments

Justice Byabakama taking Oath as Chairman of the Electoral Commission

Kampala, Uganda  | THE INDEPENDENT |  Parliament is pushing for a legal framework regarding judicial officers who are appointed for special assignments outside the judiciary. The demand stemmed from the discussion on the Administration of Judiciary Bill which seeks to provides for powers and administrative independence of the Judiciary.    

Bugweri County MP, Abdu Katuntu suggested that the Bill should include a provision that allows the Judicial Service Commission to replace judicial officers on special assignments. Katuntu said that this will address absenteeism and staffing shortfalls that he says are among the main factors that affect judicial performance in Uganda.  

According to the judiciary website, six justices of the Court of Appeal currently have special assignments. They include Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire and Justice Monica Mugenyi who were appointed to the East African Court of Justice and Justice Solomy Balungi Bossa who is at the International Criminal Court.   

The other is Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi, who was appointed Chairman of the Electoral Commission in November 2016, Justice Irene Mulyagonja who has been the Inspector General of Government since April 2012 and Justice Catherine Bamugemereire who recently chaired the Commission of Inquiry on land matters from March 2017 to January 2020.          

Katuntu says the government should provide that judicial officers appointed to any special assignment beyond two years should resign and be replaced to ensure that judicial services are not interrupted.   Katuntu told URN that it is also possible to bar appointment of sitting judges to special assignments in the judiciary Bill.      

Solomon Muyita, the spokesperson of the judiciary explains that judicial officers appointed for special assignments usually discuss with the Judicial Service Commission and Chief Justice and apply for paid or unpaid leave.    

However, Muyita says some judicial officers may also resign, like Justice Mulyagonja, who only returned to the Judiciary recently after she applied and was appointed to Court of Appeal.          

However, the minister of state for Public Service, David Karubanga asked for extra time to consult on the matter. He however says that the Public Service Standing Orders and Pensions Act provide that public servants must resign before taking up another public office and those who resign forfeit their pension.  

He however told URN that this is a unique situation for the judiciary because the proposed Bill seeks to make the Judiciary independent as stipulated in the 1995 Uganda Constitution.      

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