Government has tabled the Judicature (Amendment) Bill, 2023, seeking to increase the number of judges on both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court is the highest Court of judicature in Uganda while the Court of Appeal, which also sits as the Constitutional Court, listens to appeals from the High Court.
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Norbert Mao, tabled the bill during the sitting chaired by Speaker, Anita Among, on Wednesday, 22 November 2023.
Among observed that the Bill has only two clauses and tasked the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, to which it was referred for scrutiny, to process and return it for the second reading next week.
“The bill has few clauses, only two clauses. I want you to work hard and bring it back on Tuesday for the second reading,” Among said.
Among was concerned that constitutional amendments are handled piecemeal, and asked Mao to explain the fate of the Constitutional Review Commission, which she said would ideally handle all constitutional amendments.
“We have a lot of constitutional amendment proposals, and we want to know if we are having a constitutional review commission or not,” said Among.
Mao reiterated that his ministry was financially constrained to establish the commission and instead advised the government to utilize the Uganda Law Reform Commission.
“It is regrettable that the constitutional review commission has not been constituted. We have decided to recommend to the government the Uganda Law Reform Commission to take charge of the review process; it is a constitutional body with the ability to do the work, all we would need is to beef it up with additional members,” Mao said.
He added that he had received 80 percent of constitutional amendment proposals that are pending cabinet approval.
According to the government, Case backlog as at 30th April, 2023 at the two courts stands as follows; the Supreme Court – 303 backlog cases out of a total of 668 pending cases and in the Court of Appeal – 5,173 backlog cases out of a total of 8,698 pending cases.
“Acute case backlog requires more manpower to deliver justice to the people of Uganda effectively. In the circumstances, it has become necessary to amend the Judicature Act, Cap. 13 in section 3 and 9 to increase the number of Justices of the Supreme Court and the number of Justices of the Court of Appeal as envisaged by articles 130 and 134 of the Constitution respectively,” said Mao.