Parliament Votes Against Proposal to Expand Supreme Court Bench

Parliament has approved the Judicature (Amendment) Bill, 2023, rejecting the government’s proposal to raise the number of Supreme Court justices from 11 to 21.

The House also dismissed amendment to increase the Court of Appeal justices from 15 to 56, settling for only 35 judges.

The government sought the increase to address backlog issues at the two courts and enhance service delivery. However, Parliament, based on the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs findings, argued that more judges might not be the solution for effective justice.

“Expanding the Supreme Court’s justices won’t alleviate case backlog since it’s caused by factors like inefficiency, poor case management, and the Supreme Court’s broad jurisdiction,” explained Robina Rwakoojo, the committee chairperson.

The committee emphasized concerns about the financial and legal implications of the proposed amendment, citing potential increased government expenditure.

“We are aware that a Justice of the Supreme Court is entitled to certain facilities, including body guards, research officers, house helps, and other persons who facilitate the justices to deliver on his or her mandate. These people are paid from the consolidated fund, and the costs associated with their employment were not considered yet they will burden the taxpayer,” Rwakoojo added.

The committee recommended alternative measures, including invoking Article 41 of the Constitution to appoint justices temporarily, a cost-effective method. It proposed a review of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, suggesting it handle only matters of law to reduce the workload.

Ndorwa County East MP, Wilfred Niwagaba, expressed concern about the government seeking more judges while failing to appoint the prescribed number since 2008. Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Nobert Mao, assured that with a functional Judicial Service Commission, appointments would be made promptly.