The Senate has approved draft legislation establishing the Court of Appeal.
The organic law, earlier approved by the Chamber of Deputies, has been under scrutiny by the senatorial committee in charge of political affairs and good governance.
Senator Jean Nepomuscene Sindikubwabo, the chairperson of the committee that considered the Bill, explained that it was revisited in its entirety with minor amendments made before Monday’s passing.
“We have amended like three to four articles in the Bill and the procedure is that after the Senate’s inputs, the Chamber of Deputies will analyse the modifications,” he said.
If it comes into force the court of appeal, amongst other things, is supposed to dispense around 1200 pending cases at the Supreme Court and will handle cases emerging from both High Court and specialised courts.
According to officials, the establishment of the appellate court is expected to allow the country’s highest court exercise its core mandate, which is interpretation of the Constitution and providing guidance to subordinate courts.
At least 13 judges will be relocated from Supreme Court to handle businesses at the court of appeal to be headed by a president and two vice-presidents.
The draft law, according to government officials and senators, was also designed in harmony with the current national Constitution.
The Constitution, in its article 152, stipulates that an organic law may establish or remove an ordinary or a specialised court.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the senate returned to the lower chamber two other related bills for more scrutiny, saying there was no need to revise them since their purpose has been served by the Constitution.
The two bills involve one repealing the functions of the Supreme Court and another one dissolving the functions of courts’ jurisdiction.
While the Constitution provides that establishment of courts must be through organic laws, functions of the same courts are provided for by ordinary laws.
Talking to The New Times earlier, Justice Minister Johnston Busingye explained that repealing those organic laws would allow government to designate functions of court’s jurisdiction and Supreme Court under ordinary laws.
“Basing on constitutional provisions, our committee did not study two repealing bills because their purpose had long been catered for by the Constitution,” said Sindikubwabo.
Senators, on the other hand, questioned whether rejection of the two repealing bills will not create any legal void with other laws currently under scrutiny in the Chamber of Deputies.
“Isn’t this going to cause a vacuum if we send back these draft legislations yet they are supposed to go hand in hand with others being discussed by the deputies,” asked Senator Richard Sezibera.
So far, the Chamber of Deputies is still analysing two other bills, one establishing courts’ jurisdiction and the functions of the judiciary.
The Bill on functions of the judiciary, if enacted into law, will make the High Council of the Judiciary the supreme organ governing the Judiciary.
The High Council of the Judiciary, according to the draft law, is the supreme organ governing the Judiciary and it should set general guidelines governing the organisation of the Judiciary.
The Bill on courts’ jurisdiction will also determine the jurisdiction of the courts and criteria for their mandate.
The Bill, so far, divides powers of courts into ordinary and specialised courts.
Ordinary courts comprise the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, intermediate courts and primary courts.
The specialised chambers have commercial courts, commercial high court, military court and military high court.