Why Judges Need ‘More Years’

The Judiciary has defended its push to have the retirement age of judges raised to 75 years.

Erias Kisawuzi, a former spokesman of the Judiciary and now the Supreme court registrar, told The Observer in a recent interview that the push is based on what happens elsewhere in the Commonwealth, where some judges serve up to age 85.

In an interview published by The Observer on Monday, Freddie Ruhindi, the deputy Attorney General, revealed that among proposals before cabinet is a desire by the Judiciary to have the retirement age for judges raised from 65 to 75 years (see: Judges want to retire at 75 – AG).

“In law, the more the person serves on the bench, the more experienced he becomes because of the exposure,” Kisawuzi said. “That law is also unfair that disparity is also unnecessary. Why do you have some retire at 65 and others at 70? We feel that it needs to be harmonized,” he added.

Although Article 126(b) of the Constitution states that justice shall not be delayed, the courts are dogged by a huge backlog of cases that stands at more than 4,000, majorly blamed on the low staffing levels. Kisawuzi said the proposal will help the Judiciary to deal with the shortage of judges.

“We have so many gaps in the courts because people have to retire at an early age, and most of these people that have retired have gone outside the country and got big jobs,” Kisawuzi said.

“Take an example of Justice [John Bosco] Katutsi he retired at 65 and was taken on by one of the West African countries,” Kisawuzi said.

The judges’ position is also backed by members of the civil society organizations (CSOs) that argue that judges should instead be given an unlimited tenure.

“There are two professions that we shouldn’t attach a retirement age, that is the judges and university professors because wisdom comes with age,” argued Godber Tumushabe, the associate director of the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies. “This will give them a security of tenure and avoid scenarios where you have judges writing bogus judgments because they are thinking of what they will do next after retirement.”


But shadow Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Medard Lubega Sseggona argues that judges should instead have proposed the removal of politics from the Judiciary.

“The gaps [in the Judiciary] are created by administrative inadequacies and politics which is eating up the Judiciary… the president’s hand should be removed from the appointment of judges,” Sseggona said.

Sseggona also wants the current retirement age to stay, saying people should retire when they can still be useful to themselves, besides making way for younger lawyers to rise.

“While experience is important, physical strength is particularly of greater importance at 75, some people are already worn out,” Sseggona said.

During the Capital Gang radio show aired on Saturday, President Museveni concurred with the Shadow Attorney General Abdul Katuntu (Bugweri) on the urgent need to appoint a chief justice and a deputy chief justice. Museveni has not appointed a substantive deputy chief justice since July 2012, when Justice Alice Mpagi Bahigeine retired and his push to reappoint Justice Benjamin Odoki as chief justice was defeated by a court petition.

Source : The Observer

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