Uganda Law Society v Attorney General

Case Brief

This case concerned one of the most controversial and contentious issues of the independence and administration in Uganda. At that time, the Executive and Legislature had failed, neglected or omitted to render assistance to the other arm of government i.e. the Judiciary to fulfil its mandate under the 1995 Constitution. It is an undisputable fact that independence of the Judiciary is a vital aspect of governance that determines the level of performance of judicial officers and the Judiciary as an arm of government. Thus, the Constitution of Uganda has a whole Chapter dedicated to the composition and inner workings of the Judiciary. The case was heard by the following justices which included, Hon. Mr. Justice Kenneth Kakuru, Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwere, Justice Barishaki Cheborion, Justice Exekiel Muhanguzi And Justice Stephen Musota, Jja/Jjcc


In this case, Uganda Law Society (ULS) v. Attorney General Constitution Petition No.52 of 2017, the appellant is the Uganda Law Society, a body corporate set up by an Act of Parliament with objective among others, to assist the public in Uganda in matters touching on constitutionalism, rule of law and good governance. The respondent is the Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda and is cited as the representative of the Government of Uganda in accordance with Articles 119 (4) (c) and 250 (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda with capacity to sue and be sued on behalf of government, the chief legal adviser of government to which the government is a party.

The court observed that an arm of government that is wholly dependent on another arm of government for all its budgetary needs cannot be described as independent in any sense. The fact that the Judiciary is able to control its own finances, budgeting processes as well as its funding needs is a logical consequence of the doctrine of separation of powers. It was further stated that as an arm government, the judiciary must be able to control its budgeting process with the only qualification that involvement of the executive is permitted only as provided under article 155 of the constitution. Court held that Judiciary is an organ of government as opposed to a Ministry or department of Government. Justice Cheborion held that the independence of the Judiciary was fettered wherever the Judiciary was equated to a Ministry or department of Government under the Executive. He held that Article 128 (1) and (2) and Article 155 (3) of the Constitution must be respected even if there is a vacuum of the lack of a law providing for the Administration of the Judiciary. The Court concluded that it is clear that under Art 128 (6) which provides that, the Judiciary shall be self-accounting and ¬may deal directly with the Minister of Finance in relation to its finances, it is not mandatory for the judiciary to deal with the Minister responsible for Finances as it enjoys a self-accounting status. This is all because reading Art 99 (4), 128 (6) and Art 155, it becomes clear that the framers of the Constitution gave the Judiciary the special status it deserves as an organ or state. It was held that sections 9 and 11 the Public Finance Management Act 2015 are inapplicable to the Judiciary which is a self-accounting arm of government. The sections allow the Secretary to the Treasury to issue instructions to the Accounting officers including the Permanent Secretary / Secretary to the Judiciary appointed under S. 174. This fetters the power of the Chief Justice because the Judiciary is a self-accounting organ whose administrative head is the Chief Justice. Any attempt to apply these instructions and directive to the Secretary to the Judiciary is unconstitutional in so far as it fetters financial autonomy of the Judiciary and the independence of the Judiciary as a whole.