PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has, on a number of occasions, called for the amendment of the Constitution in order not to allow granting of bail in serious cases such as treason, rape, defilement, murder and embezzlement.
The issue of courts releasing suspects on bail has been a subject of debate for a long time. It generated heated debate in the Constituent Assembly during the promulgation of the Constitution in 1995.
Article 23(6) of the Constitution stipulates that where a person is arrested over a criminal offence, he or she â€œis entitled to apply to the court to be released on bail, and the court may grant that person bail on such conditions as the court considers reasonable.â€ It is clear that the Constitution does not tie the hands of the judges to grant bail to suspects. The suspects have a right to apply for release on bail, but judges have the discretion to grant bail or not.
The real problem, therefore, is apparently not the Constitution, but the judges who have taken a very liberal view on the matter, granting bail casually without due regard to the severity of the offences against the suspects.
This has seriously eroded the image of the judiciary, while undermining the efforts to fight corruption and other serious crimes. Currently, the public believes that the wealthy are virtually above the law and that it is only the â€œsmallâ€ fish that are locked up in prisons.
The judges, therefore, ought to exercise their discretion of granting bail judiciously. While it is true that every person is presumed innocent until proved guilty, it is irresponsible to grant bail anyhow. Suspects on serious charges such as rape, corruption, robbery and defilement should not be granted bail, except where extraordinary circumstances warrant. And where circumstances warrant, stringent terms should be set. This is the practice even in many developed democracies.
Bail is not a right