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City Lawyer and Chief Justice In A Row over Bail Guidelines

City Lawyer and Chief Justice In A Row over Bail Guidelines

Three months after the launch of the new bail guidelines in July this year by Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo, today city advocate Steven Kalali has petitioned the constitutional court to challenge the new bail guidelines issued.

In his petition, Kalali accuses the chief justice of overstepping his administrative powers and instead usurping legislative powers to amend the constitution when he altered provisions on the grant of mandatory bail to capital offenders.

Kalali is seeking a permanent injunction stopping the implementation of the guidelines and an order quashing the same for offending the constitution.

Launched by chief justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo at the judiciary headquarters on 27th July, the new guidelines require courts to consider and dispose of bail applications expeditiously within 30 days from receipt of the application with the intention of reducing incidences of pre-trial detention.

In the past, there was no time frame for considering and determining bail applications. According to the new guidelines, where an offense is triable by both the high court and magistrates court and the accused person has been on remand for 60 days before the commencement of trial, the person shall be released on bail on such conditions that the court considers reasonable among other guidelines.

Lawyer Steven Kalali has come out to challenge the guideline seeking a permanent injunction stopping the implementation of the guidelines and an order quashing the same for offending the constitution.

The lawyer said that earlier before the issuance and subsequent gazette of the new bail guidelines, the constitution mandated that if a suspect is charged with a capital offense such as murder, terrorism, rape, defilement, or kidnap and spends 180 days (6 months) on remand before he/she is committed to the high court, that person is entitled.

But according to the new bail guidelines set, the powers to grant mandatory bail are now vested in the high court, a mandate Kalali disregards. He says The new guidelines also mandate the clerk in the lower court to prepare the case file and send it to the registrar of the high court, who then prepares a cause list for suspects to appear before a judge to determine their bail.

Council Kalali says this takes away the rights to the presumption of innocence and freedom guaranteed in the constitution. Further, the lawyer is aggrieved with the fact that in attempting to amend the constitution, the chief justice omitted to consult the general public which must have a stake in the governance of this country.

He, therefore, concludes that the new bail guidelines as issued by the chief justice are a disguised attempt by the ruling arm (executive) to scrap bail for capital offenders hence seeking a permanent injunction to stop the implementation. 

This year President Museveni year re-echoed the need for the judiciary to deny suspects facing capital offenses such as murder, treason, terrorism, rape, and defilement bail until they had served 180 days on remand.

The president also claimed the practice of releasing such suspects was provoking the public into resorting to mob action to resolve such disputes in their communities.

He vowed to find a political solution to this ever-persisting practice by the judiciary, whom he accused of making bail mandatory instead of being discretionary.

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