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Soroti, Mbale High Courts Unveil Case Backlog Strategies
Participants at the unveiling of Case Backlog Strategies

In a bid to ensure that courts work at reducing case backlog, a team from the Case Backlog Monitoring Committee was at Soroti and Mbale High Courts where they held meetings with Judicial Officers on how to deal with this matter.

The Committee members covering the Eastern region are Supreme Court Justice, Hon. Justice Mike Chibita, Court of Appeal's Hon. Justice Stephen Musota and Judiciary Technical Advisor, Mr. Andrew Khaukha.

In Soroti and Mbale, Hon. Justice Chibita received reports on the courts' backlog clearance plans and status of ICT/Court Case Administration System.

A number of proposals were made on how to eliminate case backlog as well as address challenges affecting the administration of Hon. Justice.

Soroti High Court

While presenting the status report for both Soroti High Court and Chief Magistrate's Court, Soroti Resident Judge, Hon. Justice Wilson Masalu Musene, informed the Committee that several efforts have been put in place to address case backlog.

In terms of ICT equipment, Hon. Justice Musene said the High Court needs a minimum of four desktop computers to improve on the efficacy of the work. Adding, "for the Chief Magistrate's Court, there is a need for at least three more computers. He pointed out the need to furnish the Judge and the Assistant Registrar with laptops to ease their work.

The Judge cited other challenges such as the lack of dedicated data entry clerks, power outages and a defective court recording transcription system.

On top of the ICT challenges, Hon. Justice Musene attributed the backlog to insufficient funds for sessions and operations at court. 

He attributed the increased litigation at the court to increased public awareness of their rights. Out of the 1,065 cases at the Court, 751 are civil matters.

The Court has 161cases classified as backlog caused by factors such as insufficient human resource, lack of a vehicle for the Assistant Registrar to conduct locus visits, the multiplicity of applications in civil cases and poorly investigated criminal cases, among others. 

Among the proposed solutions was the urgent need for an alternative power source, overhauling the court transcription system, training of staff and revision of the session funds.

As part of the interventions to handle case backlog, the Court has planned weed-out sessions. They also called for a minimum of two criminal sessions per quarter to beef upon plea bargaining sessions.

The Court has 35 cases pending judgment and 62 matters which are partly heard.

Mbale High Court

The team was received by Judges; Hon. Justice Godfrey Namundi and Hon. Justice Jesse Byaruhanga. The Ag Deputy Registrar HW James Ereemye and Magistrate Grade Ones from the magisterial areas were also in attendance.

The report presented by Hon. Justice Namundi and HW Ereemye indicated the need for new ICT equipment such as computers to improve the performance of the courts. "Apart from Mbale Chief Magistrates Court, the (CM) Court of Sironko, Bubulo and Magistrate Courts of Nakaloke, Municipal, Bulambuli and Bududa have no internet and CCAS for that matter," HW Ereemye elaborated.

He emphasized the need for technical staff such as Data Entry Clerks and Court Recording Transcribers.

On steps taken to clear the backlog, Hon. Justice Namundi emphasized the need for regular engagements with different stakeholders focused on fighting backlog. He called upon the Judicial Officers to do a regular physical counting of files to assess the extent of their workload.

Other measures included fast-tracking of old cases with the view to place them before Judicial Officers for action.

Encouraging the Bar to provide pro bono services, the emphasis of plea bargaining, mini-sessions of Civil and Criminal cases every month and of witness statements in Civil suits.

Applying all modes of Alternative Dispute Resolution such as Mediation as well as sensitization of the public on initiatives in place to the administration of Hon. Justice.

In terms of case management, giving shorter adjournments in all matters, continuous weeding out the exercise of inactive cases and prioritizing the hearing of expert witnesses during trials.


HW Ereemye pointed out that COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way Court business is conducted. "The lockdown effect, lack of personal protective equipment, tools and services are just a few of the challenges," he said.

He also mentioned the lack of adequate office space for five Magistrates and other support staff, inadequate office furniture, irregular operational funds, frequent power cuts, training and the need for enhanced security at the courts. 

Guidance from the Committee

Hon. Justice Chibita emphasized that the Committee was continuing on nationwide advocacy to agree on case backlog clearance plans and reviewing the plans with divisions and circuits to guide in the preparation of case clearance plans.

In Mbale, he commended Hon. Justice Namundi and his team for a well-organized archive and the ongoing beautification of the court compound. Using local resources, the court's leadership has planted flowers and put in place potted plants to improve on the ambience.

Using an analogy of two men assigned to fell a tree, one sharpened his axe for the assignment and the other simply started cutting without sharpening his axe, Hon. Justice Chibita likewise urged the Judicial Officers to plan and understand their workload before starting. 

He said the Committee is committed to holding such progress review meetings with supervisors at various court levels to review progress and take corrective action where necessary.

Posted 12th, February 2021
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