House passes Administration of the Judiciary Bill
Parliament has finally passed the Administration of the Judiciary Bill, 2018, that will among others handle the retirement benefits of Judges.
During a plenary sitting chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on Tuesday, 2 June 2020, legislators approved the continued monthly payment of salary to a retired Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice.
The Bill presented by the then Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Maj. Gen Kahinda Otafire in 2018, seeks to operationalise articles in the constitution that deal with the Judiciary as an independent arm of government.
The Bill also seeks to create guidelines and reference for a legal and justice system by spelling out jurisdiction divisions, conditions for trials, sentencing and court fees.
The Attorney General, William Byaruhaga, asked Parliament to approve a 100 per cent monthly salary payment to a retired Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice for life.
The monthly salary payment will be equivalent to that of a sitting Chief Justice and Deputy on top of a one-off lump sum retirement benefit equivalent to 2.4 per cent of the annual salary of the retiring Chief Justice multiplied by five and their years in service.
“The monthly payment of the retired officers is relevant since these judicial officers retire when they are too old to go and look for other employment to meet their needs. The kind of life that they lead and sitting hours on end listening to cases and writing judgments they are prone to lifestyle diseases, but this assures them of a decent life after retirement,” Byaruhanga said.
The Opposition Chief Whip, Hon. Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, was in support of Byaruhanga’s proposal saying that these are senior judicial officers who dedicate most of their time to the country.
“I want to persuade this House that they should leave the Chief Justice at the original proposal to retire with their salaries. Their numbers are few and their offices. They have been enjoying certain benefits and we would like them to have the same standard which is 100 per cent then the other judicial officers should be at 80 per cent,” Ssemujju said.
The Member of Parliament for West Budama County North, Hon. Richard Othieno, questioned the rationale for paying the same salary to a retired judicial officer. He wondered why a retired judicial officer would earn a full salary when the country is still struggling to have money to appoint enough judges.
“I have no problem with the lump sum payments. But we are paying a retired judicial officer the same amount of money as the current sitting officer for life. The arguments is we have a lot of gaps in the Bench we do not have judges and this is due to lack of funds to hire judges. Shouldn’t we reduce to 80 per cent to make a difference?” Othieno asked.
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, said that the payments to judicial officers during retirement are to ensure that the active officers serve with diligence and confidence not to be compromised.
Hon. Jacob Oboth, the Chairperson of the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said that the approval of the Administration of Judiciary Bill was long overdue since it is meant to give effect to the separation of powers between the three arms of government.
Speaker Kadaga blamed the delayed approval on the Bill to lack of commitment from the previous line minister.
“Congratulations to the Attorney General and the House on passing this Bill. On more than three occasions, Parliament last year failed to consider the Bill after government disagreed with the committee report in regard to retirement benefits of judicial officers,” she said.