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Lawyers accused of frustrating mediation as Industrial Court committee meets

Justice Asaph Ruhinda Ntegye (L) during the Industrial Court first Users Meeting in Kampala (PHOTO/PML Daily).

KAMPALA – The head of the Industrial Court, Justice Asaph Ruhinda Ntegye, has noted with concern the growing practice of lawyers frustrating mediation.

He explained that some lawyers shun mediation with the intention of getting high cash pay when they eventually win the cases they are handling.

“The impression is that people do not want to settle out of court because advocates want to go on with proceedings.”

Justice Ruhinda made the remarks as the Industrial Court in Kampala held its first Court Users Meeting since its inception in 2014.

According to the 2013 Mediation Rules, all civil matters must be referred to mediation before hearing can commence except suits under small claims procedure. Mediation is the process by which a neutral third person facilitates communication between parties to a dispute and assists them in reaching a mutually agreed resolution of the dispute.

But Justice Ruhinda said that failing to embrace mediation is one of the factors that has accelerated backlog at the Court.

He said so far, the court has fixed cases for hearing until October 2020. The Industrial Court is mandated to handle and resolve labour and employment disputes between workers and their employers.

The Court Users Committee is a forum that brings together actors in the administration of justice, users in the justice system, all agencies and stakeholders concerned, to address problems within the sector. The forum serves to promote accountability and improve the performance by courts and all actors within the justice chain.

Justice Ruhinda said they had asked the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, which oversees operations at the court, to recruit three more judges but the request is to yet to be presented to Parliament.

He said when this is done, work will not stall at the Court especially when upcountry sessions are being handled.

The Acting Registrar of the Court, Ms Sylvia Nabaggala, said the hearing of the cases in upcountry circuits slows down due to lawyers who come to court when ill-prepared and don’t normally proceed.

“The court may end up disposing off about 10 cases and reason is that advocates come when they are not prepared to proceed,” Ms Nabaggala lamented.

At the same function, a 22-member committee was instituted to come up with among others, best practices for the court, spearhead stakeholder engagements to improve legislation, as well as sensitise court users.

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