During the opening ceremony of the 18th Annual Judges Conference on Jan.19, Chief Justice Bart Katureebe said there is need to increase the number of high court judges from the current 51 to 82.
Katureebe who urged Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to champion this move on the floor of parliament added that lack of enough judges is to blame for poor performance in the judiciary.
“This number is too small for a population of 36 million. Also, the Judiciary Administration Bill continues to gather dust on the shelves of parliament. Every time we ask the Attorney General about it, he says it’s in cabinet yet we need it in place to function smoothly”.
Currently it takes an average of 1200 days to resolve a single case and there are about 114,000 cases at different stages of hearing, according to preliminary results of the recent case census.
Katureebe who said that the extra 50 billion shillings they received last year was used to increase salaries and avail better housing facilities for judges added that increasing remuneration for lower bench officials is also key if they are to improve justice in the country.
“So far 6 judges have been appointed to the court of appeal and 6 to the Supreme Court yet 16 judges of the high court are expected to be appointed soon to fill the current vacuum. We hope the president does this before elections”, he said.
In addition to these, the Judicial Service Commission appointed 56 new Grade 1 magistrates.
However, recognizing that a lot of judicial time is lost when judges travel abroad, the chief justice said funding these travels will be minimized and therefore clearance for one to travel will only be done after looking at the court calendar.
The conference which was attended by the President of Kenya’s court of appeal Hon. Justice Paul Kariuki and Bernice Bouie Donald, Judge of the United States Court of Appeal was organized under the theme, ‘promoting the rule of law in Uganda through judicial accountability and excellence’. This event held at the beginning of the year is meant for judges to review their performance for the previous year and lay strategies for the New Year.