HON JUSTICE JOTHAM TUMWESIGYE BIDS FAREWELL TO UGANDA’S SUPREME COURT
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC)on Friday (October 11, 2019) JSC bid farewell to Hon. Justice Jotham Tumwesigye upon successful completion of his tour of duty at the Commission.
The Commissioners led by their Chairperson, Hon.Justice Benjamin Kabiito, commended the Supreme Court Justice for his exemplary leadership skills.
Speaker after speaker shared some of the nuggets of wisdom they had picked from Hon. Justice Tumwesigye in the four years he has spent at the Commission.
A toast was made to honor his legacy at JSC followed by a cake cutting ceremony at the JSC offices in Kampala.
In 2015,Hon. Justice Tumwesigye was vetted and approved by Parliament’s Appointments Committee to represent the Judiciary at JSC after being nominated by President Yoweri Museveni.
Established under the Article 146 of the constitution, JSC advises the President on appointment of the top echelon of the Judiciary besides exercising disciplinary control over judicial officers at all levels.
JSC is composed of nine members representing Uganda Law Society (2), Public Service Commission (1), two members of the public who are not lawyers nominated by the President, Judiciary (1) the Attorney General, Deputy Chairperson and Chairperson.
Hon.Justice Tumwesigye has been sitting on the Supreme Court bench since 2009.
Justice Tumwesigye is well remembered as the Inspector General Government, a man whose hated corruption was appointed to head the Judiciary’s Integrity Committee. He once threatened to expose colleagues at rank of Judges implicated in corruption.
Tumwesigye made the vow at the 19th Annual Judges’
Conference, that was held at Speke Resort in the city suburb of Munyonyo Kampala.
He observed that there is need to dispel the perception that only the low-ranking judicial officers are prosecuted when netted for corruption.
“We shall deal with the big fish. We will not spare anyone because of status. Stand warned. We will go after Judges this year. We should eradicate the rotten apples in the judiciary,” Tumwesigye said.
He was one of the panelists who made a presentation on ‘Combating Real and Perceived Corruption in the Ugandan Judiciary.
Tumwesigye highlighted some of the complaints gathered countrywide on instances that people link to corruption.
He cited connivance of judicial staff to change hearing dates of cases, stealing of exhibits by court staff, and disappearance of court files.
Also cited was active bribery for one to get court services like bail, and the lack of transparency in cause listing; violating the principle of first in, first out.
Tumwesigye recommended the establishment of customer care and information desks, and strengthening of the Inspectorate team to enhance supervision.
The out going , Inspector General of Government, Justice Irene Mulyagonja, noted that judicial corruption is a global phenomenon.
She observed that the Judiciary must listen critically to people outside, to comprehend the context behind the perceptions.
The President Uganda Law Society(ULS) Francis Gimara, cautioned that real corruption exists but the key players are unwilling to expose the culprits.
“You hear stories of Judicial officers who have partnered with some lawyers to promote unethical practice. In my circles, it is now normal to hear of lawyers who are known never to lose cases before particular judges,” Gimara said.
He noted that ULS has continuously cautioned lawyers of the dangers of acting unethically in the clamour for overnight success
The executive director of the Anti- Corruption Coalition Uganda Cissy Kagaba, said whereas real corruption exists, the Judiciary must also fight with the perceived corruption.
She decried the practice of transferring judicial officers implicated in corruption. Kagaba asked the judiciary to partner with civil society in the anti- corruption drive.
Asked by where she drew the line between perceived and real corruption, Mulyagonja responded that the Inspectorate of Government receives many unsubstantiated allegations.
“We receive many complaints about people being asked for bribes from unscrupulous court officials, to get bail.But when we tell many of these to return and validate, they never do so,” Mulyagonja said.
Justice Moses Mukiibi recommended a peer system, to enable colleagues keep each other in check through advisory.
In his comment, Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, said lawyers who have concrete evidence on corruption, must submit it.
“The Judiciary must clean up its image.The rules are there.Integrity cannot be borrowed,” Katureebe said.
Justice Jotham Tumwesigye and Augustine the duo had officially retired in 2016 upon clocking 70 years but were later called back and given a two-year contract in a bid to fill up the then existing staffing gap.
“For the Supreme Court, Justice Jotham Tumwesigye and Augustine Nshimye, who have been serving as acting justices of the Supreme Court, will have their two-year contract expire in December this year,” the chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Benjamin Kabiito confirmed.
“To that effect, we shall be looking at filling up these two positions early enough before their contracts expire. We have to prepare the courts for presidential and parliamentary election petitions,” Justice Kabiito further explained
The approved staffing structure for the Supreme Court is 11 justices including its head, the Chief Justice.
However, with the contract of the two justices running out, should they finally leave office without replacement, only nine justices including Chief Justice Bart Katureebe will be remaining.
The Supreme Court is the highest appeal court in the land that also has the monopoly and original jurisdiction to hear the presidential petitions.
Justices Jotham Tumwesigye, Eldard Mwangushya and Augustine Nshimye’s exist will create 3 vacancies, 13 Justices have been short listed.
Credit: Newvision and Daily Monitor