LUWERO – The Deputy Chief Justice (DCJ) Richard Buteera, and Chairperson of the Case Backlog Monitoring Committee was on Wednesday in Luwero, where he held a meeting with Judicial Officers under Luwero and Nakasongola Chief Magisterial areas.
Buteera led a delegation comprised of members of the Backlog Monitoring Committee who included Court of Appeal’s Justice, Stephen Musota, Ms Sarah Langa Siu (Chief Registrar), Mr Sam Wairagala (JLOS Deputy Senior Technical Advisor), Mr Francis Gimara (Senior Counsel) and Mr Andrew Khaukha (Judiciary Technical Advisor).
He urged the Judicial Officers to be interested and get involved in the registry work.
“If the registry does not capture what you have done, then it is futile. What you do should be reflected in your returns and data entry,” he said.
The DCJ further encouraged the usage of Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms to promote reconciliation in communities.
He said with more concentration, issues of backlog would be history in Luwero.
Presenting reports from their magisterial areas, Chief Magistrates; Sam Munobe (Luwero), Sarah Kolya Mponye (Nakasongola) undertook to ensure that case backlog in their areas is reduced within a period of one month and four months, respectively.
Out of the 297 pending cases at Nakasongola Chief Magistrate’s Court, 46 are categorized as backlog. In the Luwero magisterial area, there are 2,068 pending cases in seven courts. Of these cases, 491 are classified as backlog. Civil cases have the highest backlog at 225 cases, Land at 193 and Criminal Matters at 73 cases.
HW Kolya attributed the case backlog to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the justice system.
On his part, HW Munobe attributed the case backlog to many factors, including; ignorance of litigants on court processes, high costs of transport and poverty, making it hard for litigants to turn up in court.
Belief in witchcraft, bush lawyers, unnecessary adjournments and accused persons skipping bail were equally cited. The lack of station vehicle to carry out locus visits had impacted land justice. To address this, “the Court has had to borrow vehicles from other stakeholders such as the Police or Resident District Commissioner,” the CM said.
The Court has undertaken to fight case backlog among the interventions; adopting a session system of handling cases, continued sensitization of litigants by both Judicial Officers and court staff. They equally called for the training of stakeholders in the new legal regime.
The others emphasized were JLOS stakeholder cooperation, continuous assessment of staff performance gaps and offering routine remedial interventions, and promoting ADR mechanisms, Plea Bargaining and Small Claims Procedure, and regular weeding out.
During a guided tour of the library, registry desks and archives, it was observed that there was the need to improve file management and proper record keeping. There was poor entry and registration of results in the case registers. In the manual register, it was discovered that some of the results of the cases are not detailed in the register.
To improve visibility and promote transparency, it was recommended that all registry desks be labelled according to their specialty.
Justice Buteera recommended that court fees be displayed on the wall and or noticeboard for ease of reference.
The Community Service Officer at the Court reported that compliance of Community Service Orders was at 50 per cent.
The archives noted that record-keeping in the archives was poor, and one cannot easily trace files unaided.
Regarding staffing gaps, the Chief Registrar reassured them the staffing gaps that have created a situation where Judicial Officers caretake three to five courts will soon be addressed.
She added that if the courts in Luwero implemented the interventions indicated in their report, case backlog would significantly reduce in the courts.
Mr Gimara urged the Courts in Luwero and Nakasongola to constitute court users forums as these are essential in creating a measure of accountability.
On his part, Mr Wairagala emphasized the need for case backlog clearance plans which he said were critical in the administration of justice.