Lawyer seeks to block Bigirimana's Judiciary directives

By Farooq Kasule

Male Mabirizi filed the case a Ugandan citizen interested in the rule of law and an independent, functional, well facilitated and strong Judiciary

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City lawyer Hassan Male Mabirizi has petitioned court seeking to block the implementation of the new guidelines issued by the newly appointed permanent secretary to Judiciary, Pius Bigirimana. 

On August 27, this year, Bigirimana issued an internal memo containing a number of guidelines for judicial officers and support staff including allowances. 

Mabirizi, however, contends that Bigirimana's internal memo undermines the independence of the Judiciary and wants it quashed by the court. 

In a suit filed at the Civil Division of the High Court on Thursday, Mabirizi says the memo is illegal, irrational and unreasonable. 

Attorney General (AG), the chief government adviser is listed as the respondent in the matter. 

Mabirizi who is known for being a perennial litigant contends that Bigirimana has no power to trim the judicial officers and staff allowance as stated in the guidelines, noting that it was fixed and approved by the cabinet in 2014. 

"While salary may increase over time, this allowance is fixed as approved by cabinet" and it is illegal, procedurally improper, unreasonable and irrational for the permanent secretary to change it anyhow," says Mabirizi.

Mabirizi wants a permanent injunction restraining Bigirimana or his agents from implementing the memo, saying it is illegal. 

"It is fair, equitable, in line with the promotion of independence of the Judiciary, accountability in public offices, transparency and promotion of rule of law that the application is allowed," Mabirizi contends. 

He further wants an order directing the secretary to the treasury or any relevant authority to pay to all affected Judicial Officers their respective allowances deducted based on the said internal memo. 

Mabirizi also seeks general damages to be paid to him for inconveniences caused and costs of the suit.

Mabirizi says he filed the case a Ugandan citizen interested in the rule of law and an independent, functional, well facilitated and strong Judiciary. 

He contends that Bigirimana has no powers to reduce the allowances of Judicial Officers to their disadvantage or alter a cabinet decision. 

"There is indeed no error as the Cabinet approved a 30% consolidated allowance which change with the change in the salary," says Mabirizi. 

Recently, Bigirimana stated that the new guidelines are intended to improve among others, financial discipline in the Judiciary. 

What happened?

A source which preferred anonymity in the judiciary explained that judicial officers and staff who are against the new allowance policy have been erroneously benefiting from the system error.

"What happened is that in 2014, the cabinet approved some allowances based on salary each earned. But there was a system error and some staff got more money but it has been detected," the source disclosed.

 Adding, "The permanent secretary has since written to the Ministry of Public Service to rectify it. Otherwise, it would put a wage burden to the Judiciary." 

It disclosed that the system error was to the effect that some staff got a percentage allowance contrary fixed allowance approved by the cabinet in 2014. 

Meanwhile, the Deputy registrar of the Civil Division of the High Court, Sarah Langa has given the AG fifteen days to file defence against the allegations.