KAMPALA – A proposal by the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to exempt judicial officers from the Pension Act that would see them earn salaries up to death has been rejected by MPs saying it would open floodgates for other public servants to ask for the same benefit.
It should be recalled that on the May 29, 2018, the government introduced the Administration of the Judiciary Bill, 2018 and the legislation was referred to the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for scrutiny.
The Ministry of Justice noted that the policy behind the Bill is to operationalise the Constitutional provisions relating to the Judiciary by providing for the further application and enforcement of Chapter Eight of the Constitution.
The objective of the Bill is to give effect to Chapter Eight of the Constitution relating to the Judiciary, to provide for the efficient and effective administration of the Judiciary, to establish the Judiciary Advisory Committee to advise the Chief Justice on the administration of justice and the courts, to establish a Judiciary Service within the Judiciary.
The Bill also seeks to strengthen the independence of the Judiciary by streamlining the provision and management of funds for the Judiciary and establishing structures within the Judiciary to improve the performance of the Judiciary and to provide for retirement benefits of Judicial Officers.
Clause 27 of the Bill deals with application of the Pension Act Cap 286 of the Laws of Uganda on Judicial Officers and requires that the pensions Act does not apply to the Chief Justice, the Deputy Chief Justice, the Principal Judge, Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, judges of the High Court, Magistrates and Registrars.
Government defended the proposal asserting that the retirement benefits of those Judicial Officers have been adequately provided for under the schedules to the Bill.
The provision further extends the benefits proposed in the Bill to Judicial Officers earlier mentioned who have since retired.
While tabling the report before Parliament, Markson Oboth, Chairperson Legal Committee noted that whereas the provisions of Clause 27 are necessary in bring clarity as to whether the Pensions Act still applies to the earlier mentioned persons, some provisions in the bill might be challenged for being retrospective and retroactive in application since it allows Judicial Officers who are in retirement to receive retirement benefits as proposed in the Bill rather than as prescribed in the pensions Act as are they currently entitled to.
The committee recommended for the deletion of clause 27 arguing that the proposal is not in line with the principles for which legislation may be retroactive or retrospective as espoused in the decision of Court in Male Mabirizi & Ors Vs. the Attorney General.
Indeed, some MPs concurred with the Committee findings saying that Government should improve their current remuneration instead of giving them life time salary that will make other arms of government professionals who do equally important work to raise up demanding for the same.