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PJ Tours Mubende High Court Circuit
Hon. Justice Dr Zeija (Principal Judge) with the team of Judicial officers from the Mubende High Court Circuit

The Principal Judge has reassured Judicial Officers they while many of the problems they face will be addressed in a phased a manner due to improve the administration of justice. 

"Many of these challenges cannot have immediate solutions, we can only input them in a matrix then gradually follow them up," the Principal Judge, Hon. Justice Dr Flavian Zeija said during his tour of courts under Mubende High Court Circuit earlier this week.

Hon. Justice Dr. Zeija said that most of the problems faced by various courts around the country require long term solutions due to the constraints in resources. These among others include staffing gaps, enhancement of staff remuneration, construction or modification of court structures and acquisition of stations' vehicles. 

"We have a problem of staffing yet the mandate for the current Judicial Service Commission expired, so we have to wait for its renewal to start thinking of getting more judicial officers," he said. 

Kiboga Magisterial Area

The PJ's first stop was at Kyankwanzi Magistrate's Court where he was received by the Kiboga Chief Magistrate, HW Obong George and the Magistrate Grade II, HW Odoi Moses Tabu. There are 31 pending cases before the Court.

The CM appreciated the good will from the local leadership towards the court. "The leadership from the district appreciates the presence of this court here especially in terms of service delivery."

Prior to the Court visit, the PJ had met the Kiboga Resident District Commissioner and the LC V Chairperson whom he applauded for their good will in providing resources to the court.

From there, he moved to Kiboga Chief Magistrate Court, he was welcomed by Magistrate Grade I, HW Michael Bbosa and Grade II, HW Baguma Catherine of Busunju. 

The CM informed PJ of the Courtís efforts to adopt best practices in archiving and registry management. "We're trying to implement your recommendations as received from Hoima, but it is still a work in progress," adding that by the end of next year, backlog would also have significantly reduced. 

On his way to Busunju, the PJ visited the premises of Bukomero Court whose roof was blown off by the wind and as such its operations were halted.   

Busunju Court is housed in a rented commercial building which the Judiciary shares with other residential tenants and businesses. 

The Court is manned by HW Baguma Catherine with Magistrate Grade One HW Bbossa visiting. There are 77 pending cases with 12 cases classified as backlog. 

The judicial officers reported the need to de-gazette and re-gazette this Court to place it under Mityana Magisterial area since Busunju is a sub-county under Mityana District. This jurisdictional challenge was also later reiterated by the Mityana Chief Magistrate where PJ proceeded next. 

In response, the PJ said there was need to revise all the magisterial areas. "I think the problem of gazzeting courts needs a general review" he said adding that poor gazzeting is not a problem unique to Busunju alone.

At Mityana CM Court; the Chief Magistrate, HW Kule Moses, requested the Principal Judge to consider the operationalization of the sub courts under Mityana Magisterial Area, which include Courts at Kakindu, Bulera and Butayunja. "There are no other active sub-Courts, but we are ready to start circuiting," HW Kule remarked. 

This Court has two Magistrate Grade Ones; HW Kimono Juliana and HW Lamunu Peace Elizabeth supported by 11 nonjudicial officers. The Court has a workload of 1,003 pending cases out which144 are backlog.   

Day Two

On his second day of inspection, the PJ visited Kasambya Magistrate Court, where Magistrate Grade II, HW Atukwase Kamara Jovile, informed him that the Town Council was willing to offer land for construction of a Court. 

The PJ urged her to follow up and ensure that she gets commitment from the local leadership. "It's always good to engage the local leadership to commit to give us land in writing, and the moment they furnish us with a minute, we also start planning," he said. 

The Magistrate went on to outline the Courtís statistics that indicated that there are only 51 pending cases. 

The PJ proceeded to Mubende Chief Magistrate Court which also accommodates the High Court. He was received by Hon. Justice Isaac Muwata and Magistrate Grade One; HW Marion Ninsiima and HW Byarugaba Adam.

Hon. Justice Muwata reported that the most urgent problem of the circuit was lack of a substantive Registrar and Chief Magistrates. The Court's Assistant Registrar, HW Deborah Wanume retired in September and has not been replaced. The Chief Magistrate, HW Komakech Robbs William, who has been serving in acting capacity, equally retired last week. 

"Indeed this is urgent, we shall solve this by the end of the week," the PJ said in response. In the recent transfer of Judicial Officers, the Chief Registrar posted HW Kaggwa John Francis to Mubende as the Chief Magistrate who will at the same time also caretake its high court registry.   

Mubende Chief Magistrate Court has a workload of 1,061 pending cases with 167 classified as backlog. 

Among the key challenges reported were the need for staff orientation and training. The PJ reassured Hon. Justice Muwata that this would be addressed since he (PJ) had already recommended that the Human Resource Department conduct regional staff trainings. 

The PJ further noted that the urgent need to restructure the court building to cater for toilets for judicial officers, erect a tent shelter for a waiting area and purchase an alternative power source. He also observed that most of the circuitís staff had overstayed at the stations with an average period of 17 years. 

Magistrate Grade I, HW Ninsiima moved a vote of thanks on behalf of the Court expressing her confidence that the Courtís problems affecting justice delivery will be solved after the PJ's visit. 

The PJ concluded his tour with atour of Kiganda and Kasanda courts whose workload was reported to be 28 and 110pending cases respectively. 

General Observations

Although all the sub courts visited are gazetted as Magistrate Grade one courts, they are still manned by Magistrate Grade II each supported by one administrative staff.

Since all these courts are hosted in dilapidated town council premises with neither electricity nor water supply, no computers and other ICT equipment. Additionally, such courts are not furnished with any furniture and law books. 

It was also observed that all courtsí performance has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. There's low case registration and disposal since admission of inmates to Prisons is restricted and the production to court was banned. As such judicial officers have resorted to conducting plea bargain sessions in the prisons. 

These sub courts mainly handle criminal matters, family and children cases due to the limited jurisdiction of Magistrate Grade One in civil matters. They all however, reported no backlog. 

The Grade Two magistrates decried of being neglected, most of whom have served for more than 25 years in Judiciary without any promotion. They asserted that their pay is insufficient yet even when giving out laptops they were never considered. 

In response, PJ advised them to individually write to the Judicial Service Commission requesting to be considered for promotions since this automatically comes with an increment in salaries. In their hierarchy a magistrate grade two can be promoted to a Senior, Principal or Senior Principal Magistrate Grade II.

Judicial officers also called for enhancement of non-judicial staff remuneration as a way of motivating the workforce and curbing corruption. 

The other challenges identified were similar to those elsewhere such as insufficient space, inadequate staffing ,inefficient ICT equipment, lack of archives and exhibits rooms, poor structures, absence of prosecutors, distant remand homes, unreliable power, unavailability and poor cleaning services among others.

Posted 17th, December 2020
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