29 May 2012

Uganda: MPs Want Open Vetting of Judges

MPs on the Public Accounts Committee have called for more transparency in the appointment of judges in order to weed out the appointment of "undeserving people" to the judicial benches.

The legislators have labeled the current system which does not provide for public scrutiny of recruits to the judiciary as being responsible for the occasional appointment of judges of questionable moral integrity.

While interfacing with the Judicial Service Commission to answer queries raised by the Auditor General in his report for the financial year ending 30 June 2010 yesterday, MPs linked the corruption and other cases of indecorum in the judiciary to failure to involve the public in the appointment of judges.

"The people who later become judges are known by either their contemporaries at school, professional colleagues or even in the communities where they live. It's imperative that you advertise the names of applicants and later organize a public hearing as the case is in Kenya. This will help weed out undeserving people," Eddie Kwizera (Bufumbira) said.

Akora Maxwell said opening the vetting process of judges to the public will come in handy in upholding the integrity of the judiciary through eliminating the appointment of questionable judges.

According to the Secretary, Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Kagole Kivumbi, the appointment of judges has recently taken on a more transparent streak as evidenced by the advertisement of vacancies in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the High Court.

"Out of the over 230 people who recently applied to be appointed magistrates, over 30 were rejected because ordinary people came up and gave credible damaging evidence against them. The JSC is as interested as everyone else in ensuring that only people with impeccable moral integrity dispense justice," Kivumbi explained.

Kivumbi said the JSC has cracked the whip on cases of indecorum among judges, with 152 cases already concluded since February.

In an attempt to reduce case backlogs, 39 judges have been appointed by the JSC in a space of three months. Kivumbi told MPs that the appointment of the vacant positions to the Supreme Court, and Court of Appeal are in "advanced stages."

Meanwhile, the embattled High Court Judge, Anup Singh Choudry has filed a petition in the High Court challenging a recommendation to the president by the JSC to set up a tribunal to probe his alleged professional misconduct.

"The matter is under review in the High Court," Kivumbi told MPs when asked whether the embattled judge is still handling cases despite the kerfuffle swirling around him.

Lawyers through their professional body, the Uganda Law Society have raised a red flag over the appointment of Choudry to the Judicial bench, insisting that he is unfit to be a judge having been found guilty of professional misconduct by the Law Society of England.

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