Respect judicial independence

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja (L) and Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo. PHOTO/COMBO

What you need to know:

The issue: Judiciary

Our view: There are two options the prime minister should have chosen from; she could have hired a private lawyer for the widow and helped her appeal the decision of the court or sought the audience of the administrators of the Judiciary like the Chief Justice, Alfonse Owiny-Dollo or the Principal Judge, Flavian Zeija for an administrative remedy

The week ending saw Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja storm Mwanga II court to rescue a widow who had been jailed over a pending debt of Shs2.8m.

The head of government business, was able to clear the debt for Ms Gertrude Nalule, who was on the verge of losing her plot of land and house in the process.

Shortly after paying up the said outstanding debt, Ms Nabbanja claimed there are lots of loopholes in the case that she asked to be fixed.

She also accused the court of failing to properly handle the case, leading to what she called a ‘miscarriage’ of justice.

The prime minister was seen chairing the court, and pressing hard, the presiding magistrate, Amon Mugezi.

The gesture by the prime minister to save the woman’s plot of land and house was a good one. However, there was a problem with the way it was done.

Article 128 of the Constitution gives the Judiciary independence to performs its duties.

“In the exercise of judicial power, the courts shall be independent and shall not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority. No person or authority shall interfere with the courts or judicial officers in the exercise of their judicial functions,” the Constitution reads in part.

The same Article 128, in sub-section 3, demands that all organs and agencies of the State shall accord to the courts such assistance as may be required to ensure the effectiveness of the courts.

So the wrong in Ms Nabbanja’s good gesture is that she overstepped her executive powers to preside over a court sitting, a move that amounts to interfering with the judicial independence that the Constitution, the supreme law of the law, expressly gives to the Judiciary while performing its duties.

There are two options the prime minister should have chosen from; she could have hired a private lawyer for the widow and helped her appeal the decision of the court or sought the audience of the administrators of the Judiciary like the Chief Justice, Alfonse Owiny-Dollo or the Principal Judge, Flavian Zeija for an administrative remedy.

The work method of the prime minister ever since she took office, has been operating by moving around, tackling issues hands-on or micromanagement; which to a greater extent is good but that shouldn’t be applied to courts of law.

The Chief Justice and the Members of Parliament are right to condemn this interference with the judicial independence.

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