he Judiciary has launched a ‘client charter’ – a document intended to act as a social contract between the third arm of government and litigants who come before the courts and the institution’s partners.
The Charter which is in line with the Judiciary’s constitutional mandate to serve Justice to all and sundry, defines the Judiciary’s service delivery standards with the aim of improving the administration of Justice in Uganda.
” The Judiciary in consultation with key stake holders has developed this client charter which specifies service delivery commitments and standards by which its performance will be measured. It also provides both Judicial and non Judicial staff with clear standards to strive for in the service and mechanism by which the people shall participate in [the] dispensation of Justice without compromising independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility, and effectiveness of the Courts of Judicature ” writes former Chief Justice Bart Katureebe in the foreword to the Charter.
Under the Charter, the Judiciary, among other commitments, assures the Public;
- to render decisions of court within 60 days after the close of hearing and in the case of the Supreme Court, within 90 days.
- to safe guard court files, exhibits, documents and official records
- to provide a safe, accessible and convenient working environment
- to ensure timely response to all inquiries and complaints, ideally, within 14 days after receipt.
In a 2011 Auditor General report on Value for money in the disposal of cases in the Judiciary, it was revealed that although the Judiciary staff handbook provided for 24 months in which to complete hearing and render Judgements in Civil cases and in the case of criminal cases, 3 months for non-capital offences and 12 months for capital cases, ” not all the cases were completed within the stipulated time.”
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The report indicated that, of 9,460 civil cases handled during July 2006 and June 2010, only 83% ( 7,889) had been completed within the stipulated 24 months period, while 17% ( 1,571) cases went on for 2 – 20 years.
In the case of criminal cases, the Auditor General’s report had revealed, that out of 38,734 cases handled in the same period of time, only 7,152( 18%) had been completed within the stipulated 12 months, while a whooping 31,582 ( 82%) went on for 2-20 years.
Case backlog has remained a perennial problem within the Judiciary over the years and the public can only await to see how and whether the set ambitious 60 days period in which to deliver Judgements will be achieved.
The Judiciary has further undertaken a couple of innovations to enhance the performance of Judicial officers and bolster access to Justice including the procurement of the LexisNexis legal research service to enable the officers access legal material and journals, commentary works, encyclopedias and bulletins to ” enrich their research for quality decisions.”
Court users can now pay court fees electronically via mobile money, agent banking, visa cards, and other such means. Points of Sale are currently available at High Court divisions in Kampala and Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court and will be rolled out across the country, the Judiciary says.
In a bid to ensure a safe and healthy working environment, the third arm of government has also adopted a HIV/AIDS and Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy, copies of which will be distributed across all Judiciary’s staff.
Speaking at the launch of the Client charter, the Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo said: ” I am sure that these policies shall enable us take major steps towards building public trust in the institution and ensuring maximum respect and access to justice is prioritized at all points of service.
” I am also confident that, with the policies in place, our commitment to equality and non-discrimination at the work place is buttressed. The standards are expected to contribute to effective administration of Justice without discrimination of any kind. ”