KAMPALA – A storm is brewing in Judiciary, with judges and magistrates threatening to withdraw their services following President Museveni’s remarks that the government will not be recruiting more judicial officers to fill the existing gaps, PML Daily exclusively reports.
Speaking at the Judges’ Conference at Kampala Serena Hotel on Monday, the President outrightly rejected Chief Justice Bart Katureebe’s request for recruitment of new judges in the High Court and other courts to enable the judiciary to manage the staggering case backlog across the country.
“If you don’t prioritise at the strategic level, you will fail because you don’t have enough resources. I can tell you this. Therefore, rather than insisting on more numbers when you are not able to manage them, I would rather concentrate on remunerating the ones we have and then see how to manage other shortages,” Mr Museveni said.
And now it has emerged that following the President’s remarks, the judges held a closed-door meeting and reportedly expressed disappointment and “low energy”, vowing to stop putting in a lot of efforts in disposing of cases.
“It was hot there [in the meeting]. The judges were angry that the President does not appreciate their services. They looked at it as disrespectful,” a source that attended the meeting said.
“It was all about lamenting and lamenting. The judges were of the view that they scale down on the judicial work since no one cares about them,” the source added.
Judiciary spokesman Solomon Muyita was not available for a comment on the matter. The Chief Justice, when contacted, could neither confirm nor deny the meeting.
However, he insisted that the President’s ban on recruitment is bad for the country.
“The recruitment ban will entirely affect the people who are the consumers of justice. Given the circumstances, we shall work within our means,” Justice Katureebe said in a brief interview on the sidelines of the ongoing Judges’ conference on Tuesday afternoon.
While speaking at the conference on Monday, the Chief Justice lamented that the High Court has only 52 justices contrary to the Parliament’s recently approved staffing strength of 82 judges.
“The gap at the Court of Appeal has left the court with only 11 justices to handle a workload of over 7,000 cases. At the High Court, we have 52 judges to handle over 63,143 pending cases. This implies that the workload per judge stands at 1,214 cases, requiring disposal of 101 cases per month and 5 cases per day for 22 working days in a month. This is humanly impossible,” Justice Katureebe told the President.
At a magisterial level, Justice Katureebe said they have only 44 Chief Magistrates out of the required 100 to serve all the gazetted Chief Magistrate’s Courts. This, he said, leaves a shortage of 56 Chief Magistrates. He revealed that the number of pending cases at this level stands at 66,885, implying the workload per Chief Magistrate is 1,520 cases per annum requiring disposal of 127 cases per month per Chief Magistrate and six cases per day.
“This inadequacy in staffing has greatly affected access to justice as the few judicial officers can only handle a small percentage of the workload in the courts and cannot sufficiently meet the justice needs of majority Ugandans,” he further explained to the President.