What you need to know:
- According to the new bail guidelines launched in July, a judicial officer has to hear and determine a bail application within one month, unlike before when the time to hear a bail application was open-ended.
The Attorney General (AG) has asked the Constitutional Court to dismiss a petition in which a city lawyer is challenging the Judiciary’s bail guidelines, citing lack of merit.
Mr Steven Kalali is challenging the new bail guidelines that were issued in June by Chief Justice (CJ) Alfonse Owiny-Dollo.
He accuses the CJ of abusing administrative powers, saying this should have been Parliament’s role since the latter has the constitutional mandate to set laws.
But the AG says the petition raises no issues for constitutional interpretation and that the court should not exercise its powers to entertain such matters, which are purely on enforcement of human rights.
“We accordingly submit that the instant petition does not depend for its determination of any provision of the Constitution and, therefore, pray that you (court) find that the petition does not disclose a cause of action and dismiss it with costs to the respondent,” the AG states.
The AG states that the bail guidelines were necessary for proper and efficient administration of justice and they are consistent with Article 133 of the Constitution.
“…the Chief Justice, therefore, had the power and authority to issue the guidelines/directions to the courts. These bail guidelines were necessary for proper and efficient administration of justice,” the AG adds.
On whether there was public participation in the making of the bail guidelines, the AG states that there were a wide range of stakeholders in the justice sector, including Uganda Law Society, the public and civil society organisations.
In the petition, Mr Kalali states: “The provisions of the Constitution (Bail Guidelines for Courts of Judicature) Practice Directions that commenced on June 28, and were issued on June 18, are a clear abuse of the administrative powers conferred on the Chief Justice under Article 133 (1)a, b.”
“The provisions of the directions infringe or violate the Constitution in as far as they are inconsistent with or in contravention of Article 3, 20, as well as void for lack of public participation contrary to Articles 11 (1) of the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy,” the petition further reads.
Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court Assistant Registrar, Mr Henry Twinomuhwezi, has said the case file has been sent to the judges for hearing.
According to the new bail guidelines launched in July, a judicial officer has to hear and determine a bail application within one month, unlike before when the time to hear a bail application was open-ended.
The guidelines provide for uniformity of bail terms issued by judicial officers, unlike before when judicial officers could give different bail terms on similar offences. Also a complainant can raise their hand in court during the bail application session and be given chance to speak out on issues that he or she thinks can have a bearing on the outcome of the ruling.The guidelines also demand that court may now grant bail to a vulnerable person on his or her own recognizance or on recognizance being entered into by his or her parent, guardian or other responsible person, with or without sureties. Previously, the requirements for one to be released on bail seemed vague.
However, under the new guidelines, some of the requirements needed for a suspect to be released include a copy of the national identity card or passport, employment card or student identity card.