Justice Kasule argued that the Chief Justices powers are capped in the bill which was endorsed by cabinet early this year because he has to consult before making decisions. For instance, he pointed out, that the power to appoint or discipline judicial officers is vested in the judicial service commission.
Parliament has been advised to utilize the consideration of the Judiciary Administration Bill, to empower the Chief Justice to make independent decisions.
The call was made by Court of Appeal Judge Remmy Kasule during a high-level dialogue called to devise strategies for fast-tracking of the passing of the legal aid and the judiciary administration bill at Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala. The dialogue convened by Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) brought together parliamentarians and stakeholders in the judicial sector.
Justice Kasule argued that the Chief Justice's powers are capped in the bill which was endorsed by cabinet early this year because he has to consult before making decisions. For instance, he pointed out, that the power to appoint or discipline judicial officers is vested in the judicial service commission.
He added that the Chief Justice as the head of the third arm of government should be empowered to act independently.
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Cabinet approved the Judiciary Administration Bill in January after seven years of waiting. The bill envisaged to guarantee the independence and funding of the judiciary as the third arm of the state. The law will create a special judiciary fund that shall not be scrutinized by the parliament and ministry of justice.
According to the bill, the sums of money required for purposes of the Judiciary shall be paid by the Treasury into the Judiciary Fund.
Apart from South Sudan and Burundi which Kasule termed special cases, he said Uganda is the only country in the region without a law streamlining the administration of justice. He appealed to the legislators to ensure that the bill is passed during the third session.
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Even in regard to the provision of legal aid to the poor, Kasule said it's only Uganda amongst East Africa states that has no state-funded legal aid services. He said although lawyers created a legal aid scheme that has been operational for the past 25 years, it's not enough given the need for legal aid services in Uganda.
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LASPNET Executive Director, Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa said the government should move faster to put in place state-funded legal mechanisms because 80 percent of Ugandans can't afford legal service costs.