Judiciary faces case backlog as seven top judges set to retire this year

Pictured: Justice Faith Mwondha is due for retirement in March this year (Photo/File/NewVision)

Kampala, (UG): At least seven top judicial officers are set to retire this year upon clocking their respective retirement age, local daily Monitor revealed on Monday.

The list of seven judges includes those from the Supreme Court such as Justice Faith Mwondha – due for retirement in March; Soroti Resident Judge Henry Peter Adonyo (in June) and Justice Godfrey Namundi, the head of Mbale High Court (in May).

Others include Justice Alex Mackay Ajiji, the deputy head of the High Court-Criminal Division, (retiring in November), Justice Alexandra Nkonge Rugadya, the head of the Land Division of the High Court, also leaves in November; Mr Elias Omar Kisawuzi, a registrar at the Commercial Division of the High Court and a former spokesperson of the Judiciary; who equally leaves in November and Mr Freddie Awacnedi, a Chief Magistrate who departs in September.

What the law says

Article 144(1) of the 1995 Constitution states that a judicial officer may retire at any time after attaining the age of 60 years.

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Similarly, the same constitutional provision says in the cases of the Chief Justice, the Deputy Chief Justice, a Justice of the Supreme Court, and a Justice of Appeal, on attaining the age of 70 years an official may be retired.

On the other hand, the Principal Judge and a judge of the High Court are also free to retire on attaining the age of 65 years in civil service, while Registrars and magistrates retire at the age of 60.

“In each case, subject to Article 128(7) of this Constitution, on attaining such other age as may be prescribed by Parliament by law; a judicial officer may continue in office after attaining the age at which he or she is required by this clause to vacate office, for a period not exceeding three months necessary to enable him or her to complete any work pending,” reads in part, the Constitution section.

What the retirement means

The pending retirement of the seven judicial officers will adversely impact the Judiciary, which is already understaffed and struggling with case backlog running into thousands of unheard or untried matters.

According to Dr Rose Nassali Lukwago, the Secretary to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the Commission awaits a declaration from the judiciary to recruit new judges as a replacement for the retiring officers.

“For us to embark on the recruitment process to replace retiring judicial officers, we await the declarations made by the Judiciary. So far, we have only received one declaration,” Dr Nassali told Monitor on Thursday, last week.

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When contacted over the same, Ms Sarah Langa Siu, the Chief Registrar, wished the retiring judicial officers a good ending in their last lap.

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