On 2nd June 2020, the Parliament of Uganda passed the Administration of the Judiciary Act 2020. It was signed into law by the President of Uganda on 19th June 2020. This resulted from lobbying and advocacy by the Coalition in support of the Independence of the Judiciary (CISTICJ). The Coalition includes the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), Chapter Four Uganda, the Uganda Law Society (ULS), the Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPENT), FIDA Uganda, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) and the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU).
It was formulated by the Coalition in support of the Independence of the Judiciary in the year 2018 to operationalize Chapter 8 of the Constitution, which expressly provides for the independence of the Judiciary, which for a long time has not been financially independent. Following a number of reports on the performance of the Judiciary, issues of case backlog and ineffective and inefficient performance of the Judiciary were alluded to its lack of financial autonomy, thus leaving it prone to external influence. This Act’s objective is to make the Judiciary self-accounting and provide for detailed administration of the Judiciary headed by the Chief Justice.
Key provisions in the Act.
- The Act, in its entirety, seeks to give the Judiciary self-autonomy and accountability.
- The Act gives the Chief Justice the sole responsibility to administer and supervise all courts in the country to be assisted by the Deputy Chief Justice and the Principal Judge.
- It also spells out the powers of the Chief Justice while carrying out his or her duties ranging from issuing orders and directives to establishing performance and evaluation systems for the Judiciary.
- The Act also establishes the Judiciary Administration Council, a body responsible for advising the Chief Justice on matters concerning the administration of the Judiciary, and the chief justice shall be the chairperson of the council.
- In a bid to smoothly run the Judiciary, the Act establishes several committees to oversee various sectors in the Judiciary. Committees of planning, resource, human capital development, ICT, and ethics and integrity are established under the Act.
- For further administration of the Judiciary, the Judiciary service is established, and it consists of all judicial staff and officers. It expressly gives powers of appointment of all judiciary staff to the Judicial Service Commission.
- The office of the Chief Registrar is expressly provided for under the Act with its duties spelt out. Under the Act, the chief registrar plays an administrative role and is responsible for implementing the Judiciary strategic plans and activities and administering/ managing all court registries.
- A new office of the inspectorate for courts of Judicature is created by the Act to evaluate courts’ performance and develop guidelines for the adequate performance of courts.
- The judge assisted by the registrar shall head the inspectorate.
- For purposes of continuing education and development of administrative staff, the Act establishes the Judicial training institute, which makes continuous education for all administrative staff compulsory.
- The purpose of this Act is to promote financial autonomy for the Judiciary; therefore establishes the office of the secretary, who is the accounting officer of the Judiciary and is appointed by the president in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.
- Still, in a bid to promote financial autonomy, the Act gives the Judicial Service Commission in consultation with the Chief Justice powers to determine the appropriate benefits for the Judiciary staff in the event of retirement, resignation, death, or restructuring. In addition to this, all state organs and agencies are to adhere to the principles of the Judiciary financial autonomy and independence provided under the constitution. In carrying out his role, the Chief Justice shall also prepare financial estimates for the Judiciary each year for recommendations from parliament without any revisions from them.
- In addition to this, the minister of finance in appropriating Judiciary funds shall release all funds directly to the Judiciary.
In conclusion, the pension Act and salaries allowances Act is still applicable to the Judiciary.
The Act, therefore, seeks to promote the financial autonomy of the Judiciary, and this will help improve the performance of the Judiciary since external influence will no longer hold ground in regards to the dispensation of justice.