The re-appointment of Benjamin Odoki as Chief Justice for a two-year contract has been challenged before the Constitutional Court.
Odoki, who had been at the helm of the Judiciary for over 10 years, retired in June this year after clocking the mandatory retirement age of 70. However, President Yoweri Museveni re-appointed him recently to serve for two more years.
Western Youth MP Gerald Karuhanga has filed a petition challenging Odoki’s appointment. In his complaint filed on Friday, the legislator argues that the decision by President Museveni to re-appoint Justice Odoki who had retired from the bench is unconstitutional.
He further contends that it is against the spirit of constitutionalism for the President to be the one directing the Judicial Service Commission on the names of persons to be appointed as judicial officers.
He now wants the Constitutional Court to among others pronounce itself that the reappointment of Odoki as Chief Justice is unknown and strange to the law.
The MP who claims to be having interest and at the same time aggrieved by Odoki’s reappointment, sued the Attorney General through GW Kanyeihamba and Company Advocates. Prof. George Kanyeihamba, one of the partners in the law firm, was one of the Supreme Court justices, who served together with Justice Odoki on the bench before he too retired upon reaching 70 years.
The petitioner states that Museveni’s decision to re-appoint Justice Benjamin Odoki as Chief Justice is in contravention of Articles 130, 133, 142 (1) (2) (3), 143 (1), 144 (1) (a), 147 (1) (a) (2) of the constitution . He further argues that the act of the President disregarding the advice of the Judicial Service Commission is inconsistent with Article 147 (1) (a) of the constitution.
On July 9, President Museveni wrote to the chairman of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Justice James Ogoola, directing that Odoki be given a two-year contract in order to maximise the services of the scarce human resource in the judiciary. The President also ordered that four other retired Supreme Court justices be recalled back to the Bench.
The reappointment of Justice Odoki was opposed within the legal circles and in Parliament, where some legislators vowed to take the matter to court on grounds that the constitution does not allow so.
In his complaint, Karuhanga further contends that the constitution does not provide for reappointment of a retired Chief Justice and that when he or she retires, they do not qualify for re-appointment. Karuhanga notes that this is gross abuse of the law, good governance and constitutionalism to allow the President to reappoint a retired Chief Justice.
Court is yet to summon the Attorney General to file in his defense before a hearing date can be fixed.