KAMPALA – The Principal Judge, Dr. Yorokamu Bamwine, has Monday afternoon March 25, rebutted reports that Judges are on strike nor has the Judiciary closed any of its courts over poor funding.
This follows reports that the Judiciary had closed 20 courts to protest low funding and that High Court judges were also on strike over poor funding.
“There is no crisis in the Judiciary the way it has been painted by the story – High Court judges are certainly not on strike,” Dr. Bamwine clarified on Monday.
“I think the newspaper made reference to recommendations made during a meeting of High Court judges on Friday (March 22) that High Court circuits should be closed until the Judiciary gets adequate resources to operate them,” Dr. Bamwine was quoted in a statement issued Monday afternoon.
He added that; “So it’s not true that 20 courts have been closed. It was a recommendation, which may be accepted or rejected by the Judiciary administration and the government…It will be considered by Judiciary’s Planning and Development Committee and if the Committee supports it, then the next move will be to advise the Chief Justice on the possible closure of those courts.”
The Judiciary operates eight specialised divisions of the High Court that are based in Kampala, and it has 20 gazetted High Court Circuits (branches of the High Court outside Kampala).
The decentralization of the High Court that led to the creation of the Circuits started in 1998. Only 14 of the Circuits (Arua, Fort Portal, Gulu, Jinja, Kabale, Lira, Masaka, Masindi, Mbarara, Mbale, Mpigi, Mubende, Mukono, and Soroti) are operational.
The six Circuits of Hoima, Iganga, Luwero, Moroto, Rukungiri, and Tororo have not been operationalised due to lack of funds, infrastructure, and human resources.
Besides, only Mbale, Gulu, Masaka, Kabale, and Masindi High Court Circuits have structures customised for a High Court – the other circuits are either resident in structures of magistrate courts in the areas or operate in rented buildings.
“We created circuits with the hope that we would have a minimum of two judges per circuit. That was the standard, but as we talk only three out of 20 (Jinja, Mbale, and Mbarara) have two judges,” said Dr. Bamwine.
He said the implementation of March 28, 2018, Parliamentary Resolution, that increased the structure of the High Court judges from the current 51 to 82, is long overdue.
Reasons advanced for recommendation to close High Court Circuits include poor facilitation; circuits have unique problems of case backlog, but they do not have adequate resources to tackle the problem.
During their meeting, the Judges said they cannot pretend to be working when the resources to run the circuits are so inadequate.
This website learnt that For instance, a Judge working out of a station is entitled to Shs170,000 per diem for a night, but the sum is inadequate for his/her meal and accommodation in a decent hotel.
Other issue includes human resource challenges, infrastructure challenges, loneliness among other things.