Government has been given up to Tuesday next week to explain vacant positions in the office of the Director Public Prosecutions and the Chief Justice.
Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah on Thursday noted that the matter is urgent and important for the judicial process to work properly thus directing the second Premier Henry Kajura to expedite the process and give Parliament the way forward.
Paul Mwiru, MP Jinja Municipality, told Parliament that both the DPP and the Chief Justice’s offices are not in position to operate normally due to the vacancies therein.
Mwiru also noted that currently the country has an acting Chief Justice yet the law does not provide for another acting position. He thus demanded for an explanation from government on whether the rule of law has been abandoned.
The position of the DPP fell vacant recently after President Yoweri Museveni appointed Richard Buteera as a judge. His deputy Damalie Lwanga was also appointed a judge which leaves the deputy DPP’s office vacant as well.
As a result, many case files are pending as no case can be prosecuted or withdrawn without the authorization of the DPP.
Article 120 of the Constitution Mandates the Directorate of Public Prosecution to sanction and withdraw charges before the court. However, the power to withdraw charges can only be exercised by the DPP him or herself.
Other areas that need the presence of the DPP include consent to charges of incest, embezzlement and corruption among others.
Lwemiyaga County MP Theodore Ssekikubo noted that the implication of a lack of Director for Public Prosecutions is seen in police cells and remands. This he says puts the administration of justice in the country and the constitutional order is put at stake which threatens to set a constitutional deadlock.
Ssekikubo adds that while criminals are having a field day, suspects are languishing in jail thus the need to address the matter with urgency.
Premier Kajura then explained that filling these posts takes time and needs careful consideration.
Medard Ssegona, the Shadow Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, said any single judge appointed including public officials such as the DPP have the curriculum vitae are submitted before appointment.
This means their retirement age is known to government since its fixed in the constitution. Medard argues that government therefore has adequate and advanced notice of the retirement age of each individual.
He thus dismissed Premier Kajura’s insinuations that they needed time to constitute the third arm of government.
The Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki officially retired on June 23 after his tenure expired upon clocking the age of 70 years. Debate has now begun in Parliament on whether the constitution can be amended to allow for the extension of the age of not only judges but civil servants.