Ugandan law body exposes loopholes in the gov’t Constitutional Amendment bill

A JUDGE COULD BE EXCUSED BY SICKNESS OR ANY OTHER EVENTUALITY: Parliamentary Legal Committee Vice Chairman, Baka Mugabi

A JUDGE COULD BE EXCUSED BY SICKNESS OR ANY OTHER EVENTUALITY: Parliamentary Legal Committee Vice Chairman, Baka Mugabi

The Law Development Centre (LDC) has joined the voices of dissent against the proposals in the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2015.

The Centre which is statutorily mandated to organize and conduct courses of instruction for the legal practitioners in Uganda is particularly not agreeing with government on amendment regarding the appointment and removal of members of the Electoral Commission.

It also wants the one thousand signature requirement for aspirants seeking to contest as independent removed from the amendments.

Head of the LDC Department of Law Reporting, Research and Law reform Bakunzi Didas Mufasha argued that Article 146 of the Constitution should be amended to have positions of the Electoral Commissioners advertised, interviews conducted by the Judicial Service Commission and a shortlist of candidates sent to the President  for approval.

While appearing before Parliament’s Legal Committee to present the opinion of Law Development Centre on the proposals in the Constitutional amendment Bill 2015, Bakunzi said the 1000 signature requirement for Independents would violate article one of the 1995 constitution. The article grants citizens powers to determine how they are governed.

Law Development Centre also rejected the proposed amendment to Article 144 to increase the retirement age of Supreme Court justices from 70 to 75 and Court of appeal from 60 to 70.

It argues that the age should instead be lowered to allow judges to retire and have younger judicial officers join the bench. LDC also disagreed with the proposed government amendment to article 131 (2) to require that when hearing appeals from the decisions of the court of Appeal sitting as a Constitutional Court, the quorum of Judges should be seven not the required full bench of all judges of the supreme court.

LDC argues that the full bench would actually mean that decisions reached by the court are well informed and gives room for a wide range of views. However, Legal Committee Vice Chairman, Bakka Mugabi noted that this was not realistic since one cannot rule out sickness or any eventuality that might cause one Judge to miss the hearing.

Isingiro South MP Alex Byarugaba also wondered whether the Judicial Service Commission would do a better job in the appointment of the Electoral Commission commissioners than the Public Service Commission.