Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo has asked government to raise the retirement age of judicial officers to 75, saying the current provision deprives the country of experienced judges.
He said the Judiciary loses seasoned judges and magistrates to early retirement yet they go through a rigorous process to get to that level.
“How can we compel a judge to retire at the age of 65? And as he retires, he is taken by the neighbouring country or somebody else and serves in a different capacity yet it takes so much to make that person a judicial officer,” Justice Owiny-Dollo said at the Judiciary’s end of year party in Kampala on Friday.
“A magistrate should retire at 65, High Court judge at 70 and the appellate [Court of Appeal and Supreme court] justices at 75,” he added.
Currently, magistrates retire at 60 years of age, High Court judges at 65 while Court of Appeal and Supreme Court justices retire at 70. Justice Owiny-Dollo also asked government to raise the number of judges at the Court of Appeal.
“They [government] should double the number of justices in the Court of Appeal to 30. The solution lies in keeping the number of justices corresponding to the populace,” he said.
The Deputy Chief Justice asked the Minister for Justice and Constitutional affairs, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, to lobby Cabinet over the matter.
“My appeal to the minister is that use your bargaining power so that we can play our part as the Judiciary in ensuring that we have the country at peace,” Justice Dollo said.
He also snubbed the recalling of retired judges to serve on contract. “We now don’t need these things of contracts. In fact that is evidence that they are retiring them hurriedly,” Justice Owiny-Dollo said.
Gen Otafiire agreed there is a need for changes in retirement age for judges and pledged to lobby Cabinet.
“We are still below that [the required number of judges]. I can assure you I will keep on struggling to ensure that we get the 82 members of the Bench although they are not adequate. Eighty two judges cannot serve a population of 44 million people,” he noted.
The minister also promised to lobby Parliament to expedite the passing of the Administration of the Judiciary Bill to improve efficiency of the courts.
“The Judiciary deserves better. I call upon my colleagues [in Parliament] to ensure that we pass the Administration of Judiciary Bill quickly,” Gen Otafiire said.
Last week, President Museveni appointed the Director of Public Prosecutions, Justice Mike Chibita, and other two justices to the Supreme Court. He also appointed Mbarara Senior Resident Judge Flavian Zeija as the new Principal Judge to replace Justice Yorokamu Bamwine who retires this month at the age of 65.