The government of Uganda has been sued before the Arusha-based East African Court of Justice for alleged failure by President Yoweri Museveni to appoint the required number of judges in the High Court, Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court.
The lawsuit was filed by two concerned citizens Simon Peter Ochieng and John Tusiime through their lawyers of Rwakafuzi and Co advocates.
The petitioners contend that because of this anomaly, the Judiciary which is the third arm of state; can’t effectively perform its twin constitutional roles of checking the executive arm to safeguard the rule of law and administer justice.
They further break down the effects of the President’s failure to appoint the right number of judges as; lack of quorum to hear constitutional cases, judges being overloaded with work, delay in case disposal, long remand periods.
Citing the judicature Act as amended in 2011, the petitioners claim that the Act provides that the Supreme Court shall consist of the Chief Justice and 10 Justices.
Currently, the Supreme Court has eight justices with four in acting capacity and due for retirement. This implies that the Supreme Court has a vacancy of three justices.
They add that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) forwarded the names of the qualified persons from which the President could appoint the full Bench of judges but adamantly appointed a few.
Besides; the Court does not have a supervisor who is the substantive Chief Justice following the retirement of Benjamin Odoki last year.
Further justifying their legal action, the duo states that the judicature Act as amended in 2011; provides that the Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court shall have 14 justices and a deputy chief justice. However, it currently has 11 justices without a substantive deputy chief justice.
They further claim that in August 2009; Parliament resolved to increase the number of judges from 50 to 82. Subsequently, the JSC forwarded to the President the names of qualified candidates to have the Bench filled but the President has not done so.
Currently, the High Court has about 52 judges, a shortage of about 20 judges.
Tusiime and Ochieng in their comparison of the judiciary to the other two arms of state, say that the judiciary is starved of human resource to effectively fulfill its constitutional mandate and the Parliament which is the legislative arm has 384 members and the cabinet which falls under the executive arm has over 80 ministers.
They now want the East African Court of Justice to declare that the refusal by President Museveni to appoint judges as demanded by law is a breach of the Treaty establishing the East African Community that enjoins all partner states to govern while adhering to the rule of law.