Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera has rejected a proposal by Chief Magistrates in Greater Luwero to organize inter-jurisdictional session hearings to clear the case backlog. According to the case backlog report by Luwero Chief Magistrate’s Court, there are 491 cases as of May 5th 2021. These include 193 cases of land, 225 civil cases and 73 criminal cases.
The Nakasongola Chief Magistrate area has 46 criminal and 16 civil cases including land matters. Samuel Munobe, the Luwero Chief Magistrate says that the case backlog is a result of illiterate litigants who can’t afford to bring witnesses to court, lack of vehicles and funds to visit the contested areas by magistrates. He also cited the frequent transfer of judicial officers, frivolous or unnecessary miscellaneous applications that clog the system leading to case backlog.
Munobe also blamed prisons for failure to bring suspects to court because of the COVID-19 pandemic, unserious litigants who exploit the court process through endless adjournments to delay or disappoint opponents, bush lawyers and widespread belief in witchcraft among others as causes of the backlog. Munobe revealed that they had resolved to employ a practical approach among others forming two teams to hold inter-jurisdictional session hearings to clear the backlog.
He explained that they plan to deploy a team at a specific court to clear the backlog come July 2021, saying they intend to start with Nakasongola magistrate’s court. Munobe revealed that they plan to set aside resources from this quarter to facilitate the planned sessions and asked the Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera and Case Backlog Committee to grant them permission to implement the strategy.
While meeting Magistrates from Nakasongola, Nakaseke and Luwero to dialogue on the strategies to reduce the case backlog, the Chief Registrar of Court of Judicature, Sarah Langa Siu wondered what will happen if the magistrates move from one duty station to another without leaving anyone behind to attend to the matters before their court.
She noted that the Judiciary is aware that some case backlog is a result of inadequate judicial officers and resources, which they are slowly addressing. Reacting to the requests by the magistrates, the Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera said he wouldn’t support the inter-jurisdictional session hearings saying they may create case backlog at duty stations while the magistrates are away.
Buteera instead advised the magistrates to embrace alternative dispute resolution or mediation and small claims procedure among other strategies to reduce case backlog.
The Magistrates in Luwero committed to reducing the case backlog before 15th June this year whereas those from Nakasongola promised to do it within the next four months. Apart from the case backlog, there are 2068 pending cases in Luwero magistrate courts (comprising of Luwero and Nakaseke districts) while Nakasongola has 297 pending cases.
151 of these are before the Chief Magistrate whereas 146 are before the Grade one magistrate. A case is considered backlog after spending two years in the justice system without being concluded.