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Monday, 25 January 2016 12:33

New Law Year 2016: Speech by the CJ

 

The Hon the Deputy Chief Justice 

The Hon the Principal Judge

The Hon Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs 

The Hon Attorney General 

His Eminence The Most Reverend Stanley Ntagali, Archbishop of Church of Uganda

 

Your Lordships the Justices and Judges of the Courts of Judicature 

The Director Public Prosecutions

Your Excellences, Members of Diplomatic Corps

Hon Members of Parliament Present

Members of Constitutional Commissions

The Head of Public Service/ Secretary to Cabinet

The Solicitor General

The Secretary to Judiciary 

The Chief Registrar

The President of the Uganda Law Society 

The President of the Uganda Judicial Officers’ Association

Your Worships 

Senior Administrators of the Judiciary 

Members of the Bar

All invited Guests

 

Fellow Ugandans, Ladies and Gentlemen

 

The beginning of the New Year marks the end of the previous legal year and signals the beginning of another year for the wheels of justice to continue on their relentless journey of dispensing justice in fulfillment of the mission of the Judiciary, which is: to be an independent, competent, trusted and accountable Judiciary that administers justice to all. 

 

It is therefore with great joy that I join the previous speakers in wishing you a happy new year.  It is my sincere wish that 2016 will be a great year for all of us in our personal and professional lives. For the courts, I hope it will be a year in which we shall see the fading back of case backlog.

 

This Law Year is a special year for me because it is my first, since being appointed as Chief Justice of Uganda. I would like to use this occasion to assure the people of Uganda that I shall work with you to improve administration of justice in Uganda through:  Strengthening integrity  in the Judiciary; Developing new products of justice to broaden and deepen access to justice especially for the vulnerable ; Institutionalizing a culture of performance and accountability amongst Judicial Officers; Improving the remuneration and working conditions of Judiciary staff ; Promoting public engagement in the administration of justice;  and, Improving relations between the organs of the State while protecting the independence of the Judiciary.

 

I shall count on your support and team work to transform the Judiciary.

 

Last year was a remarkable year for the Judiciary in many respects. The Judiciary scored several milestones. First, H.E The President appointed a Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice after more than eighteen months of waiting. 

 

Secondly, H.E the President appointed six Justices of the Supreme Court and six Justices of the Court of Appeal.  I hope that H.E will soon appoint the remaining 2 Justices of the Supreme Court, 2 Justices of the Court of Appeal and 16 Judges of the High Court. 

 

I commend the Judicial Service Commission for appointing 23 Deputy Registrars, 21 Chief Magistrates, 2 Senior Principal Magistrates Grade I , 4 Principal Magistrates Grade I,  1 Senior Magistrate Grade I and 56 Magistrates Grade 1.  

 

Thirdly, the Judiciary had cordial relations with Parliament and the Executive. The Judiciary had a very useful meeting with Members of Parliament, when Parliament, for the first time in our history, sat in Court Room Number 1 to discuss the Budget of the Judiciary.  This important meeting, was followed by a cordial meeting between H.E The President, and Judges, at State House, Entebbe. Our meeting with the President underscored the oneness of Government without diminishing the trinity of separation of powers and the need for the three organs of the State to be adequately funded and facilitated so as to work for the common good of the Country. We considered the role of the Judiciary in national development and shared some of our challenges with the Executive, which culminated into promises for greater cooperation between the organs of the State, and better funding and facilitation of the Judiciary. It was agreed at this meeting that terms and conditions of service of judicial officers should be improved; that Judges should retire with their full salaries, and that a policy should be developed to retain retired Judges to assist the courts during emergencies. Government also, undertook in a phased manner, to construct staff houses for Judicial Officers at all the stations to ease their accommodation. Government also committed to finding resources to purchase suitable vehicles for Magistrates in a phased manner.  This would go a long way in assisting Magistrates to visit locus in quo in land matters.  The Executive committed to funding the computerization of the Judiciary spreading over a period of 5 years.

 

Some work has been done on implementing the directives of the meeting. Suffice to mention that funds have been released to double the housing and medical allowances of Judges. A resolution to amend Schedule ‘A’  of the Salaries Allowances of Specified Officers Act will soon be processed to effect the changes. Here, I hope the Ministry of Public Service will move swiftly on this. Allowances of the Lower Bench were increased by 10% of their salaries. However, the increase is inadequate. We need to lobby Government for more resources to inter alia: Increase salaries of the Chief Registrar, Registrars, Chief Magistrates, Magistrates Grade I and Magistrates Grade II that have remained static for more than 5 years; Increase funds to cater for court operations to pay for sessions considering the high rate of crime and litigation.

 

STATEMENT ON THE PERFORMANCE OF THE JUDICIARY IN 2014/15:

 

The mandate of the Judiciary is to administer justice through interpretation of the law and adjudication of cases.  In the Financial Year 2014/15, the the Courts completed 150,052 cases in comparison to 128,000 cases completed in 2013/14 and 109,000 cases completed in 2012/13 Financial Years.

 

I attribute this impressive performance to the hard work of Judicial Officers and reforms we are implementing to improve the face, soul and body of Justice. I would like therefore, to thank Magistrates Grades II, Magistrates Grade I, Chief Magistrates, Registrars, Judges of the High Court, Justices of the Court of Appeal and Justices of the Supreme Court together with the administration and the entire staff of the Judiciary, Members of the Uganda Law Society, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney General’s Chambers, the Police and the Public, for exercising your mandates that enabled this excellent performance. Thank you all for a job well done.  We shall not ask for national medals but we only have to re-double our efforts so that the public get quick and effective justice.  The satisfaction of the Public with our services is the ultimate medal we should seek to achieve.

 

As we celebrate the huge increase in case disposal, we should not lose sight of 114,512 pending cases in the courts as well as the thousands, of unresolved disputes or unmet legal needs that never reached the courts.  Some of these cases are more than ten years old and represent what others have called the dilemma of access to justice. 

 

The presence of too many pending cases is an embarrassment to the Judiciary, and a serious affront on the rule of law. I therefore, call upon the JLOS stakeholders especially the Judicial Officers, Members of the Bar – public and private, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, the Police and members of the public to join hands with the Judiciary to clear the backlog. 

 

I am aware that besides the human resource constraint, the current Civil and Criminal laws, are inadequate. The law must therefore, be reformed to expand Alternative Dispute Resolution, electronic filing, discourage unnecessary adjournments, introduce filing of Skelton arguments, allow payment of court fees using mobile money platforms, among others. I have, therefore, set up a committee chaired by Justice Tsekooko to, among others, study the proposals made by the Uganda Law Reform Commission to reform civil and criminal laws impacting on the administration of justice. I wish to thank the Chairperson of the Uganda Law Reform Commission and her team for having undertaken a study on these laws.

 

Resource envelope for the Judiciary comes from both Government of Uganda and Donors (bilateral and the Sector basket funding from JLOS). 

 

Tthe wage (Salaries) provision has grown from 23.3 billion in Financial Year 2013/14, to 24.876 billion in FY 2014/15 and to 25.876 billion for FY 2015/16. This projection has been maintained in FY 2016/17. The Non -wage Component which caters for the day to day running of the Courts stagnated at 50.9 billion in FY 2013/15 and FY 2014/15. There was a slight increase in FY 2015/16 to cater for Exgratia payments for retired Justices and Pensions. The stagnation of this very important budget component has led to slow implementation of activities. The Government made a supplementary provision of 5 billion in FY 2015/16 which we hope will alongside 3.76 billion for arrears, form part of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework ( MTEF) allocation for the FY 2016/17. On the contrary however, the Development component which caters for among others, provision of vehicles, ICT and constructions; has been on a decline from 10.8 billion in FY 2013/14 then to 8.801 billion and to 5.949 billion in FY 2015/16 and the projection for FY 2016/17 is 5.189 billion.

There has been targeted one off funding from UNICEF while support from DANIDA is winding up in June 2016. This may leave the Judiciary with only one source of Funding.

There is need to provide more resources to cater for the non wage requirements such as reduction of case backlog of the Judiciary and the Development Component to provide a robust ICT infrastructure, transport for Supervision and visiting locus in quo and court infrastructure which, has hitherto been a preserve of donor funding. 

 

SUPPORT SERVICES TO THE JUDICIARY 

 

1. ESTATES DEPARTMENT OF THE JUDICIARY

In 2015, the Judiciary completed construction of Justice Centers at Ibanda, Mityana, Kiboga, Kibuku, Bulambuli and Judicial Studies Institute. Construction of the High Court at Kabale is almost complete except for installation of electricity and construction of an access road. Construction of the Family Court at Makindye, is almost complete. This year, we shall complete the construction of Justice Centers at Kiruhura, Nwoya, Buyende, and Mitooma. We shall also construct a High Court at Masindi and ten ramps to make our courts accessible to the disabled. The current High Court Building will get a facelift this year with a new roof. Tendering for re-roofing of the High Court Building is underway. The Justice Law and Order Sector is finalizing negotiations with the preferred bidder under JLOS House Project to construct the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal , Headquarters of the Judiciary and  the High Court in Kampala, under the public private partnership framework. I urge the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Finance to expedite the negotiations so that we can have these buildings.

 

2. INFORMATION, COMMUNICATIONS AND TECHNOLOGY (ICT)

 

ICT holds the key for unlocking potential to increase performance and eliminate opportunistic corruption in the Judiciary. The Judiciary, therefore, is in the final stages of developing a 5-Year ICT Strategy estimated to cost UGX. 36 billion with an annual requirement of UShs.7.2 billion shillings. This strategy will position the Judiciary to 77% automation from the current 41%. H.E. the President promised to fund the ICT Strategy over a five years period. We shall follow up Government on this promise.

 

In 2015, the Judiciary installed Information Communication Technology systems to expedite court processes and ease court public access to the court. The Rules Committee has approved a Practice Direction on Audio Visual Evidence to provide for taking of evidence by audio and video link which we shall issue soon. This intervention will make it possible for courts to receive evidence by audio video link from witnesses who cannot physically appear in court due to infancy, old age, distance and cost among others.  In the case of children, the Judiciary, with support from UNICEF, has commenced installation of closed circuit cameras that are connected to TV Monitors in the High Court - Kampala, Gulu, Mbale and Fort Portal to receive evidence from children. Children who are victims of sexual gender based violence shall appear in court by video link to save them secondary victimization which they suffer when they physically appear in court to testify in full view of their alleged molesters. I would like to thank UNICEF for this timely offer, which, again is going to improve access to justice for children in Uganda.

 

2.1 WI-FI System

 

The Judiciary has installed WI-FI Systems in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court. Configuration of the System is on-going in order to provide the infrastructure to support a paperless Court Room.

 

2.2 Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) System

 

The Judiciary is installing CCTV Systems in seven High Court Registries: - Civil, Anti-Corruption, Criminal, Execution and Bailiffs, Land, Family and Commercial and seven Chief Magistrates Court Registries at Entebbe, Makindye, Nabweru, Nakawa, Buganda Road, Mengo, and Law Development Centre Court. The System will be used to monitor our Court Registry procedures with a view of identifying areas for improvement.

 

2.3 Payments of Court Fees like Bail Fees using Mobile Money

 

In December 2015, the URA implemented the Mobile Money facility for payment of taxes in Uganda. The Judiciary is in consultation with URA to implement this service for payment of Court fees like Bail deposits. 

 

2.4 On-Line Filing System

 

The Judiciary has initiated the analysis and design of an on-line filing system (e-filing) of court documents and cases. When this is finally implemented, advocates will file cases from their chambers without coming to the Court.  This intervention will save time and eliminate unnecessary human contact that may result into unprofessional conduct from the involved parties. 

 

2.5 E-Judgment Tools Development

 

Software is being developed to assist in writing Judgments. The template will have fields where evidence is inserted and the system generates related selected authorities via internet facility to analyze and evaluate evidence in accordance with the applicable legal principles. Our IT team and the developer have done about 30% of the work on the software.

 

 

2.6 Real-Time Court Recording and Transcription

 

The Judiciary plans to introduce and convert the current Digital Court Recording and Transcription System to a Real-Time System to facilitate real time production of transcripts required for tasks like judgment writing. Real-Time Court Recording ensures a shorter case processing cycle throughout the court system thereby fighting case backlog. It is proposed to start with the Commercial Court and Appellate Courts before extending it to other Courts.

 

3 THE LAW REPORTING FUNCTION

 

3.1 Uganda Legal Information Institute (ULII) Website

 

The Judiciary has continued to maintain an online web portal where it provides free legal information to the public. The information provided on this web portal includes inter alia, judgments/rulings from all courts of record of Uganda, Acts of Parliament, Statutory Instruments and bills. The website also provides decisions from CADER, the Tax Appeals Tribunal and the Industrial Court. I note that not many Judicial Officers and legal practitioners are using the website. I, therefore, urge you to actively use the site to enhance the quality of legal representation and judgments.

 

3.2 Uganda Legal Information Institute (ULII) Samsung App

 

The Judiciary has developed a ULII App accessible by using Samsung phones and tablets. With the help of this facility appearing as an icon on ones’ Samsung mobile devices (phone, tablets), one can quickly access all judgments passed in the Uganda’ Courts of Record (Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the High Court). 

 

3.3   Uganda Legal Information Institute (ULII)Website e-Newsletter

 

Soon we shall be launching an online newsletter where we shall be highlighting precedential court decisions. This will be emailed to subscribing members free of charge. 

 

 

4 NATIONAL COURT CASE CENSUS 2015

 

In December 2015, I commissioned a taskforce to carry out a National Court Case Count to establish the number of cases in the Judiciary. 

 

The preliminary report of the case census shows that there are 114,512 cases pending in all the courts. As of December, there were 97 cases in the Supreme Court; 5,844 cases in the Court of Appeal; 35,548 cases in the High Court and 68,115 cases in the Magistrates Courts. We now know the exact number of cases in the courts and where most of the cases are located. With this information, we shall review our case backlog reduction programme focusing more on stemming the growth of case backlog as well as clearing the existing old cases. 

 

In the interim, I propose to issue a Practice Direction targeting the eradication of cases which are more than 2 years old.

 

5 SETTING OF PERFORMANCE TARGETS

 

The Judiciary has set targets for all Judicial Officers as part of an elaborate Performance Enhancement System to evaluate judicial officers including Judges by introducing modern methods of management. This system increases level of performance, monitors performance, and informs Best Performers’ Reward Committee for Meritocracy. The targets are:

 

Supreme Court                       80 cases

Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court     600  cases

High Court Judge                                      300  cases

Registrars                400  cases

Chief Magistrate                                        600  cases

Magistrate Grade 1 of more than

 

3 years’ standing                                      400 cases

 

New Magistrates  Grade I of less  than 3 years standing                                300 cases          

Magistrate Grade II                                                                                                 300 cases                

 

Judicial officers are hitting their targets except in appellate courts that did not have adequate Justices.

 

 

6 CONTINUOUS PROFESSIONAL TRAINING FOR JUDICIAL OFFICERS

 

The Judiciary is promoting continuous training for judicial officers with mandatory Continuous legal education hours at the Judicial Studies Institute on areas that will better the administration of Justice.

 

The Judicial Studies Institute will be strengthened to provide continuous professional training to Judicial Officers to sharpen their skills and keep them abreast with new developments in the law. Each Judicial Officer will be required to attend a minimum number of hours of training in a year to keep them competitive, informed and well disposed to deliver first class justice.

 

7 STRENGTHENING OF THE INSPECTORATE

 

On the 24th December 2015, I issued a Practice Direction (Inspectorate of Courts) (Practice) Direction, 2015 to reorganize and strengthen the Inspectorate of Courts to promote good governance in the administration of justice. I have appointed Hon Justice Augustine Nshimye, JSC as Chief Inspector of Courts, to demonstrate the Judiciary’s seriousness to clean up all Courts and deal with complaints of misconduct or incompetency in a timely manner. 

 

The revamped Inspectorate of Courts will be responsible for promoting good governance, accountability and quality assurance in the Judiciary. It shall carry out its mandate mainly through inspections, investigations and outreach programmes. The new Inspectorate of Courts will inspect all Courts unlike in the past where only Magistrates were inspected.

 

8 MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY AND JUSTICE LAW AND ORDER SECTOR (JLOS)

As the Chair of the Leadership Committee of the Justice Law and Order Sector, I led a delegation last year in October to the USA to strengthen our relationships with Pepperdine University that will see JLOS institutions build capacity in various areas that will aid administration of Justice in Uganda. This relationship dates back from 2008 and provides for capacity building and information sharing in the areas of Plea Bargaining, Sentencing, mediation, short exchange programs and projects with prisons to support rehabilitation and reform of offenders.

 

 

THE NOTABLE CHALLENGES

 

Case backlog and allegation of corruption are our two most notable challenges that must be addressed urgently.  

 

1. CASE BACKLOG

Huge backlogs continued to dent the image of the Courts despite remarkable efforts by the Judges to clear many cases. This was caused by shortage of funds and systematic failures in the courts. Funding to the Judiciary was inadequate to pay for court room technology and sessions for the High Court, Court of Appeal and Chief Magistrates. The presence of an average of 40,000 prisoners per day in prisons and the long pretrial remand for capital offenders was very challenging considering that we could only afford to hold sessions for 1,800 prisoners out of 8,500 capital offenders waiting for trial in the High Court. 

 

The World Bank notes that:

 

“When Judiciaries carry a large backlog of cases (they) erode (e) individual property rights, stifle private sector growth, and, in some cases, even violate human rights. Delays affect both the fairness and efficiency of the judicial system; they impede the public’s access to the courts, which, in effect, weakens democracy, the rule of law and ability to enforce human rights.”

 

Back home, I want to share with you the experience of one Nigerian litigant, who would be in the same position like a typical litigant in Uganda (emphasize). He had this to say about the courts:

 

A common complaint against the Nigerian law courts is that justice is invariably expensive and tardy. Judges would be mistaken if they thought that this state of affairs was a good reflection of their work. The fault may not be theirs, but when the litigants see some judges and magistrates sit for very brief sessions before retiring …. It is difficult to blame them if they say that such judges and magistrates do not work hard enough. 

 

 

He goes on to say that: 

 

“If justice delayed is justice denied, all judges must show visible concern at the agony of litigants and in particular the inhuman treatment meted out to persons who are compelled to stay in prison for months on end even at time when the law presumes them to be innocent.” 

 

We recognize that delay of cases hurt everybody and the country at large. As Chief Justice, I will prioritize elimination of case backlog during my tenure.

 

We shall fight case backlog using a multi-disciplinary approach. It will involve change of attitude, reform of the law, greater use of technology, better training of Judges, Alternative Dispute Resolution and a paradigm change from the current system of justice steeped in bureaucracy, to a business oriented approach to resolving cases. Consequently, the Judiciary will adopt the following initiatives and reforms to improve the administration of justice in Uganda.

 

1.1 Increasing access points

 

From the available resources, the Judiciary will establish a High Court circuit at Mukono, Iganga, Mpigi, Rukungiri and Mubende to bring services to the people that have hitherto, endured long distances to access the High Court. The High Court circuit at Nakawa will be restructured and if need be, merged into existing Divisions of the High Court.

 

1.2 Increase of Magisterial Areas

 

Magisterial Areas are to be increased from 39 to 81 in a phased manner after the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs gazettes new magisterial areas. Pending the gazzeting, Magisterial Areas with a high case load such as Mengo, Nakawa, Lira, Gulu and Mpigi, will get a second Chief Magistrate. More Magistrates Grade I are to be recruited so that each County has a Magistrate. This intervention will address the phasing out of Magistrate Grade IIs, whose numbers have fallen from 403 to 49 as at 2015 and left most of the  Sub County Courts and the countryside without justice services. The law should be amended to give Local Council Courts power to handle most of the cases that were handled by Magistrates Grade II Courts. In this regard, Local Council Courts should be given power to handle land cases, civil cases of less than one million shillings and all matters of a customary nature. Criminal jurisdiction should, however, remain vested in the formal courts.

 

1.3 Court of Appeal to hold up country sessions

 

The Court of Appeal will hold sessions in Mbarara, Mbale, Gulu and Fort Portal to ease pressure on the court at Kampala. Resources, will be found to send Justices on regular upcountry sessions as the country moots the idea of building permanent premises for the Court of Appeal upcountry. I urge Government to increase Justices of Appeal from 15 to at least 32, to support the decentralization and circuiting of the Court of Appeal. 

 

 

FUNCTIONAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE TO BE PRIORITIZED

 

We recognize that resources are inelastic and that courts may have to innovate to provide more judicial services with available limited number of financial, human and other resources.  In this regards, the Judiciary shall invest resources and time in developing judicial products that deliver justice at the most competitive rates and stem the growth of case backlog. Some of these interventions will include the following:

 

1. Continuous sitting of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal

 

The Supreme Court and Court of Appeal that have hitherto sat using the session systems are considering changing the system in favour of continuous hearing of cases now that we have more Justices in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. Civil cases, which do not require funds for state brief and elaborate service of court process, are to be benefit from the new changes.

 

2. Limiting Oral Arguments in Appellate Courts

 

The Supreme Court and Court of Appeal is considering a proposal to limit oral arguments in Court to save time and resources of the Court. If the proposal is implemented, counsel will be required to file appeals with written submissions including responses. Counsel will be given limited time to provide clarifications to Court during hearing of appeals. A remedy will be found for unrepresented litigants to present their appeals within the constrained timelines.

 

3. Elimination of Delivering Judgments on Notice

 

Delivery of judgments on notice encourages a culture of delayed judgments in the Courts. Consequently, the Judiciary is considering a proposal to severely curtail the practice. Court shall now be required to notify the date of the judgment to the parties immediately after the end of hearing a case. Delivery of judgment on notice should only be reserved in exceptional circumstances. 

 

4. Summary determination of applications

 

From the recent national court case census, we established that about 60% of the civil cases are applications. Most applications can be decided based on the evidence in the accompanying affidavits and skeleton legal arguments without hearing oral arguments from counsel. For example in  Hong Kong, where Courts have been given power to hear applications in a summary manner a Judge, can dispose of hundreds of applications in a single day. We can also use this method to clear applications which are causing backlog. Consequently, the Civil Procedure Rules are to be amended to give courts power to expeditiously decide applications without oral arguments except if the Justice of the case so requires.

 

5. Alternative Dispute Resolution

 

The Judiciary shall continue to roll out Alternative Dispute Resolution to expedite the resolution of cases.  We amended the Rules to make Alternative Dispute Resolution mandatory in civil cases. Plans are underway to extend Alternative Dispute Resolution to the Court of Appeal, where it has the potential of assisting the Court to reduce the huge number of pending cases. In this regard, I call upon advocates who are not very receptive to Alternative Dispute Resolution to embrace it because of the immense advantages it offers over the adversarial system of justice and its ability to shift the decisional power from the Judge to the parties and their counsel.  The rules of procedure are to be amended to provide for payment of costs in the most deserving cases of Alternative Dispute Resolution to fill an existing lacuna in the law. 

 

6. Plea Bargaining

 

In the last year , the Judiciary with support from Development Partners and the University of Pepperdine piloted plea bargaining in 11 Circuits of the High Court  as a cost effective measure to reduce case backlog of capital cases in the High Court. In the pilot period, the High Court disposed of 1,500 cases in a very short time. Users and beneficiaries of plea bargaining hailed it for being cheap with a high clearance rate of 95% per session. 

 

In 2016, the Judiciary shall continue to expand plea bargaining to all the circuits of the High Court and Magistrates Court to provide timely justice to offenders and reduce on pretrial remand for capital offenders, who do not have adequate protection like suspects whose cases are not yet scheduled for hearing. The Rules Committee has approved a Practice Direction on Plea Bargaining, that I shall issue soon.

 

7. Expansion of Small Claims Procedure

 

The Small claims procedure courts will be rolled out to all Magisterial Areas in 2016. The Small Claims Procedure is an innovation adopted by the Ugandan Judiciary to handle Civil Claims below ten million shillings. It was initially piloted in six Chief Magistrates’ Courts and has meanwhile been rolled out to twenty six Chief Magistrates’ Courts namely; Mengo, Makindye, Nabweru, Nakawa, Mbarara, Mbale, Masaka, Jinja, Lira, Kabale, Arua, Mukono, Nakasongola, Bushenyi, Entebbe, Luwero, Kitgum, Iganga, Fort Portal, Soroti, Masindi, Mpigi, Gulu, Busia, Kasese and Hoima. 

 

 

CORRUPTION IN THE JUDICIAL PROCESS

 

I am concerned about the persistent complaints of both real and perceived corruption in the courts. Complaints of corruption are rife in the lower courts. The High Court and appellate courts feature but with low frequencies. While most cases of corruption are unsubstantiated, I have said before that corruption has no place in the Judiciary because it short changes the vulnerable, perverts the cause of justice, perpetuates conflicts in society undermines civilized ways of resolving disputes and increases transaction costs for business. 

 

We in the Judiciary are determined to eradicate corruption in the chain of justice by opening up the judicial process and taking a zero tolerance policy towards the corrupt. I have since assuming office established hotlines on which the public can report cases of mal administration of justice. I have taken up complaints of corruption leveled against judges by investigating such complaints and taking action where necessary. I welcome any person who has a complaint of corruption against any judicial officer or court staff to report to me in confidence and investigations will start, first internally, and where necessary by the JSC. But at all times the officer accused must be given an opportunity to respond to allegations against him/her.  Even in the pursuit of the corrupt, we must never lose sight of the basic principles of fairness.

 

We shall continue to work with the Judicial Service Commission and the Inspectorate of Government with the active support of the public to rid the Judiciary of both perceived and real corruption. I encourage members of the public to cut off the supply side of corruption by stopping or rejecting giving bribes for services. Likewise, judicial officers and staff, who provide the demand side of corruption, are warned and informed that stern action will be taken against them.

 

Before I take leave of this matter, I wish to appeal to litigants, advocates and the public to refrain from making unsubstantiated and malicious complaints against judicial officers. Unfair complaints against judicial officers are a threat to judicial independence because some judicial officers may fear to make decisions against certain litigants or lawyers for fear of enlisting malicious complaints. Aggrieved parties should only make complaints where judicial officers have violated the Judicial Code of Conduct or abused office. Other complaints going to the merit of the decision, should be dealt with through appeals.

 

Appeal to Government

 

I urge the Minister of Justice and Constitutional affairs and the Attorney General to fast track the tabling of the Administration of Justice Bill, which seeks to provide for the administration of the Judiciary, and the Legal Aid Bill, that makes provision for legal representation of the indigent. These two Bills should be fast tracked to improve efficiency in adjudication.

 

Conclusion

 

In conclusion, 2016, will be a great year for the Judiciary as it endeavors to deliver justice to all.  It is a year that the Judiciary should apply:

 

“Business concepts of efficiency and project management to case processing, be reinforced by change of attitude and work methods for increased productivity in the Judiciary.

 

I thank you for listening to me.

 

It is now my pleasure to declare the New Law Year officially open.

 

For God and My Country!

 

 

 

Bart M Katureebe

CHIEF JUSTICE

 

Published in Latest News
Wednesday, 13 January 2016 11:54

Judiciary Appoints Chief Inspector of Courts

 

The Hon. JSC. Augustine Sebuturo Nshimye has been appointed as the Chief Inspector of Courts for the Judiciary with effect from 13th January 2016. This is a positive step in the promotion of accountability within the Judiciary and the JLOS Sector as a whole. His Lordship shall be responsible for carrying out the functions of the Inspectorate of Courts in line with the Constitution (Inspectorate of Courts)(Practice Directive) 2015. This position mandates his Lordship to receive, investigate and evaluate complaints from the public against judicial officials.

Previously, the functions of the Inspectorate of Courts were carried out by a Registrar of the High Court. By virtue of the Registrar’s position in the judicial staff hierarchy, it was difficult to inspect and take decisive action against senior judicial officers at levels above Registrar; thus against judges of the High Court, the Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court. The appointment of a justice of the Supreme Court therefore rightful places the Inspectorate of Courts within the top echelon of the judicial structure.

The Judiciary has for long grappled with challenges associated with accountability and perceived corruption. This appointment of a senior judicial officer is poised to turn around a disturbing trend of the Judiciary where in the recent years it has been pitted as one of the most corrupt public institutions in Uganda. The Chief Inspector of Courts will among other strategic reforms lend support towards the judiciary’s anti-corruption initiatives through the implementation of the Judiciary Anti-Corruption Plan of Action and strengthen accountability.

The Justice, Law and Order  Sector congratulates his Lordship and welcomes this appointment as a strategic re-enforcement of the sector efforts to promote accountability, fight corruption and ensure optimal staff productivity. The appointment of Justice Nshimye comes at a time when the Judiciary is resolute on zero tolerance for corruption and committed to subjecting any officer found culpable to both administrative and criminal sanctions. The Judiciary has previously also put up three SMS hotlines for the public to report acts of corruption and unprofessional conduct by its staff; 0776 709100, 0703 707085  and 0794 702085.

 

By Musa Modoi | Published: January 14, 2016

 
Published in Latest News
Tuesday, 15 December 2015 07:25

Judiciary Completes File Census Exercise

 

More than 20,000 cases are pending determination before courts throughout the country. These include 97 cases at the Supreme Court, according to results of the just concluded national case census This follows the recent file census carried out December 10 - 11, 2015 through the country where the Judiciary sought to take stock of all pending cases. This according to Justice Henry Peter Adonyo, the head of the National Case Census, will enable the Judiciary establish backlog cases in the court system for action on them.

Justice Henry Peter Adonyo, during a press briefing held at the commercial court following the complete of the two day exercise, said a total of 5,844 cases are pending before the Court of Appeal, 871 cases at the Kampala High Court Criminal Division while 97 cases are pending at the Supreme Court.He said the pending cases at Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court comprise both criminal and civil.

 

Overview of census findings

In Kampala area, a total of 256 cases are pending at the Anti-Corruption Court, Family Division (2,425), Civil Division (1,388), Land Division (3,979), Law Development Centre Magistrates Court (400), Buganda Road Magistrates Court (592), Mwanga II Court (434), Mengo Magistrates Court (2,187) while Kampala Capital City Authority Court has 320 cases. Physical case files pending before the High Court in Fort Portal before one judge are 1,836 while 4,438 case files are pending before the magistrate courts, and 2,153 cases pending at Mbarara High Court before two judges and another 944 before the magistrates' courts

Justice Adonyo promised that a comprehensive report will be released in February 2016 to form a basis for the Judiciary to plan effective distribution of resources for case management. "The exercise has been an informative experience that is helping the Judiciary management as well as the respective courts to weed out non-existent cases. We shall use the findings from the census to inform the resource allocation in the respective courts," Justice Adonyo said.

 

By Edgar Kuhimbisa | Published: December 15, 2015

Published in Latest News

 

President Yoweri Museveni has said there is no serious dialogue between the three arms of government; the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, to talk about strategy and ideology of the country. “We only talk about sharing resources which is not enough. We must understand, what does the State want to do? There s a weakness of harmony and orientation of strategy,” he said.

The President was yesterday speaking to over 80 judges whom he hosted at State House in Entebbe. Responding to a presentation by the Chief Justice Bart Magunda Katureebe, on the transformation of the Judiciary for National Development, President Museveni cited UPE and USE that were initiated by government following a steady tax collection regime. “We thought having these children in school was unavoidable. When the tax collection improved from 2.8billion in 1986 to 728billion in 1997, we started UPE. The number of children in school jumped from the initial 2.5million to 8.8million. The Problem is that with policies and prioritization, the judiciary is not involved that is why they don’t get the logic and factors taken into account,” he said.

The President said with the tax collection now at 12000billion (12trillion), government has invested in infrastructure development in the education, health, roads and electricity sectors. “Public service increased teachers from 80,000 to 160,000 with increased classrooms. There was load shedding which has stopped. We were spending very little of our money on infrastructure and depended on donors,” he said.

The President said government now spends Shs 3000bn on roads, 1700bn on electricity and quite a bit on the army. President Museveni said that government has put more efforts in the construction of roads in all parts of the country using locally generated resources. He said the roads would have a big impact on the national economy because they would serve for a long time and provide an opportunity to address other important sectors that need to be funded.

“We spend quite a bit on the army to be able to build a strong army although soldiers get low wages. Amin soldiers were well paid but had no weapons. But we said weapons first. We brought peace cheaply with most of our soldiers sleeping in Maama ingia pole. If we did not do this, we would have our country run by the United Nations,” he said, adding that peace is enabling Uganda to get more money. “I can speak authoritatively that we have one institution that has given you exemplary service cheaply. It’s not a story, it’s not something I read in a book, I have it here on good record,” he said.

The President assured the Judges of state security after their retirement and said judicial officers should retire with 100% of their normal service benefits. He said this is a cost effective way of addressing the welfare of the judicial officers. He urged them to improvise in line with housing for the courts and proposed institutional housing for judicial service officers.

President Museveni said that the NRM Government was fully committed to providing vehicles for all judges and Magistrates in the country and proposed that they establish a SACCO that government can facilitate. He said that the government would soon fund medical check-up for them in health facilities of their choice within the country.

Museveni said government will support the Shs 36bn five year ICT strategic plan to roll out a robust case management system providing for E-filing to reduce timelines and loss of files.  The Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, commended President Museveni for eliminating extra Judicial killings in the country. He however, pointed out that the judiciary has rental arrears of 3bn and that the supreme court may be up for eviction if nothing is done. Katureebe said with a 46% growth in the budget from Shs63bn in 2012/13 to Shs92bn in 2014/15, performance also increased by 49% from 102,000 cases in 2010/11 to 152,000 cases disposed of in 2014/15. 

 

Source: State House | September 3. 2015

Published in Latest News

 

President Yoweri Museveni has appointed Hon. Justice Bart Magunda Katureebe  as the new Chief Justice of the Republic of Uganda. In a statement released by State House on March 5 2015, His Excellency the President also appointed Justice Stephen Kavuma as the Deputy Chief Justice. Justice Katurebe is a judge of the Supreme Court of Uganda while Justice Kavuma who has been the Ag. Chief Justice is a judge of the Court of Appeal.

Justice Katurebe , 64 who has previously served as the Attorney General, will by virtue of his new appointment become the Chairperson of the JLOS Leadership Commitee.

 

 @JLOSUganda

 

By Edgar Kuhimbisa | Published: March 5, 2015

Published in Latest News
Friday, 21 June 2013 11:54

New Judges Sworn in

 

STATE HOUSE - President Museveni on June 20, 2013 presided over the swearing-in of a record 25 new judges during a colorful ceremony at State House Entebbe. This makes him the first President to appoint such a number of judges at once anywhere in the world. President Museveni said the judges have a challenge to deliver services to the people through coordination and partnership with the Police who do the investigations and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who bring in the cases.

Published in Archived News
Friday, 24 May 2013 09:56

Sentencing Guidelines Committee

The Chief Justice on April 26, 2013 signed the Sentencing Guidelines into law and also constituted a sentencing guidelines committee. The mandate of this committee is to make recommendations to the Chief Justice for development of guidelines for other offenses, reviewing the existing guidelines, conduct public awareness on sentencing, advise on the use of the guidelines, establish a research, monitoring and development program on sentences and their effectiveness and monitor the implementation of the guidelines.

The Committee is chaired by the Hon. the Principal Judge and comprising of the following:

• A Justice of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, appointed on the recommendation of the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice respectively
• The head of the criminal division of the high Court
• Attorney General or his or her representative
• The Director public prosecutions or his or her representative
• The Inspector General of police or his or her representative
• A representative of the Uganda Law reform Commission
• A representative of the Justice Law and Order Sector
• The Commissioner General of prisons or his or her representative
• A representative from the National Community Service Committee
• A Magistrate appointed by the Uganda Judicial Officer's Association and three members of the public appointed by the Chief Justice.

The Committee is supported by a sentencing secretariat (a research arm of the Sentencing Committee) headed by Mr. Khaukha Andrew of the Uganda Law Reform Commission.

The guidelines will be published in the Gazette on the 24th of May 2013 and will be launched by the Hon the Chief Justice on the 6th of June 2013.

 

DOWNLOAD the Sentencing Guidelines (456.51 kB)

 

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | Published: May 24 2013

 

Published in Archived News
Monday, 13 May 2013 07:10

President names new Judges

 

KAMPALA -- President Yoweri Museveni has named 28 new judges to fill vacant positions in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court.The appointments are subject to parliamentary approval and the names have been forwarded to the Speaker of Parliament for vetting.The appointments to the Court of Appeal include the Director of Public Prosecutions, Richard Butera, Prof. Lillian Tibatemwa (Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of academics at Makerere University) and Kenneth Kakuru, a human rights lawyer.

Published in Archived News

KAMPALA-- On 26th April 2013, the Hon. The Chief Justice constituted a task force chaired by Hon. Justice Y Bamwine – The Principal Judge, to review the draft law on plea-bargaining.

The members of the task force are:

  1. Justice L Gidudu – Judiciary
  2. Ms. Harriet Lwabi – Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs
  3. Mr. H P Adonyo - Judiciary
  4. Mr. P W Gadenya – JLOS Secretariat
  5. Mr. Okoth Ochola – Deputy Inspector General of Police (IGP)
  6. Mr. Bruce Kyerere – Uganda Law Society
  7. Ms. Joan Kagezi – International War Crimes Division of the High Court
  8. Mr. Andrew Khaukha- Uganda Law Reform Commission (Secretary)

 

The Task force is expected to complete its work by 26th July 2013.

 

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | Published: April 29, 2013

 

 

**

Reprinting or republication of this article on websites is authorized by prominently displaying the following sentence, including the hyperlink to the JLOS Website, at the beginning or end of the report:

"Draft Law on Plea Bargaining to be Reviewed" is republished with permission of the Justice, Law and Order Sector."

 
Published in Archived News

KAMPALA -- The Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) on the 27th -28th March, 2013 facilitated a two day residential training at Ridar Hotel in Seeta for trial judges. The workshop was officially opened by the Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki. In his opening remarks, the Chief Justice noted that the workshop was timely because upon the conclusion the Susan Kigula and Stephen Tigo cases, there is concern about the lack of consistency and certainty in the subsequent sentences handed out by the courts in Capital offences.

Published in Archived News
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