A storm is brewing within the Judiciary. This is after judicial officers under their umbrella association of the Uganda Judicial Officers Association (UJOA) petitioning the High Court in Kampala, seeking its orders to compel its permanent secretary, Mr Pius Bigirimana to vacate his office immediately on account that his office is not known in the Judiciary structure.
In a lawsuit filed before court on Monday, October 21, the judicial officers under their umbrella body, the Uganda Judicial Officers Association (UJOA), said that the Judiciary is not a ministry or a government department to have a permanent secretary as per section 10 of the Public Service Act and Article 174 of the Constitution and therefore Mr Bigirimana should not be holding the office.
UJOA that comprises of all judges, registrars and magistrates from the Supreme Court to the lowest court
The suit reads, “A declaration that the appointment and transfer of the respondent’s officer (Mr Bigirimana) as the permanent secretary to the Judiciary by His Excellency the President who is also represented by the respondent, to implement policies of government as illegal, ultra vires and irrational and is jeopardizing the independence of the Judiciary as the Judiciary is neither a department of government nor a ministry.”
In July this year, Mr Bigirimana was transferred from the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development to the Judiciary to replace Mr Kagole Kivumbi who had been sent on forced leave. UJOA is an association that brings all judicial officers together with a core mandate of advocating for their welfare. UJOA that comprises of all judges, registrars and magistrates from the Supreme Court to the lowest court.
Bigirimana’s battle with the judicial officers stems from his move to slash their monthly allowances that had been increased based on the recent salary raise, arguing that the same is illegal, improper, irrational and abuse of law.
In the new financial year that started in July this year, the government increased the salaries of judicial officers by almost 100 percent. Their monthly allowances were automatically increased to that effect but Mr Bigirimana, wrote an internal memo to the judicial officers, saying the increment in their allowances was done in error before vowing to slash the same to match the figures approved by Cabinet.
Since then, the judicial officers have been protesting this move and the two parties are now set for a court battle.