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Uganda Law Society sues gov’t for under-funding Judiciary

The Uganda Law Society (ULS) has gone to the Constitutional court to challenge the continued under-funding of the Judiciary, one of the arms of the government.

The gist of ULS’s case in which the Attorney General is the respondent, is that, both the legislature and the executive, the other organs of the state, neglected their constitutional role of implementing the Judiciary’s constitutional and self-accounting status through enactment of appropriate laws thus contravening Articles 128 (1), (2), (3), 150 (1), 79 (1) and 155 (2) & (3) of the Constitution.  

The petition comes at the time when the national budget frame work paper 2017/18 currently before parliament indicated that the 18 institutions that form the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) which include the judiciary, have been allocated Shs 1.119 trillion, translating to 5.1 per cent of the total national budget.

In comparison to the previous FY 2016/17, JLOS had a 5.4 per cent allocation of the total budget, though the actual money was slightly lower than that allocated in this year’s budget.

Uganda Law Society (R) president Francis Gimara

According ULS, the functions of the Judiciary which are well laid out under Chapter VIII of the Constitution, are to administer justice, exercising judicial power derived from the people in accordance with the principles stipulated under Article 126 (2) of the Constitution, which among others include not delaying justice.

In particular, the independence of the Judiciary, ULS says is guaranteed by the Constitution to the extent that Article 128 (1) stipulates that in the exercise of judicial power, the courts shall not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority.

The lack of adequate funding according to ULS makes it impossible to expedite disposal of cases and has led to initiatives such as trial by sessions which negate the fundamental rights of a free and fair trial under Article 28 of the Constitution.

Through Victoria Advocates and legal consultants, ULS challenges sections 9 (1), (2), (5) & 11 (3) (a) of the Public Finance Management Act of 2015.

The law society contends that the above sections are in contravention and inconsistent with Article 155 (2) & (3) of the Constitution by granting the secretary to the treasury powers to issue directives and instructions to all accounting officers including self-accounting institutions such as the Judiciary.

ULS further argues that the annual practice, by which the secretary of the judiciary submits the budget estimates of the Judiciary, to the ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs is inconsistent with Article 155 (2) of the Constitution.  

“The Act of the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in approving the budgetary framework of the Judiciary contravenes Articles 128 (1) & 155 (2) of the Constitution, the petition partly reads.

“The act of consistently allocating grossly inadequate budgetary allocations or resources to the Judiciary, rendering it to be unable to effectively execute its constitutional mandate contravenes Article 128 (3) of the Constitution.”

In the petition which has been supported by an affidavit sworn by ULS president Francis Gimara, the society contends that subjecting of the already inadequate resources availed to the Judiciary to continuous budget cuts, the Judiciary is unable to effectively dispense the administration of justice in a fair and timely manner through speedy trials.

This, ULS says, is worsening the problem of case backlog which contravenes Articles 126 (2) (b) & 28 (1) of the Constitution.

Subsequently, ULS wants the court to issue permanent injunction restraining the secretary to the treasury from issuing budget circulars or any other related orders or requirements to the secretary to the Judiciary.

“An order requiring the secretary to the Judiciary to henceforth submit the policy statements of the Judiciary directly to parliament,” ULS says.

The society wants court to issue an order requiring the respondent [Attorney General] to establish formal mechanisms for submission of the budget to the president within 14 days.

dkiyonga@observer.ug

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