The Chief Justice Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo has outlined the Judiciary’s achievements over the past financial year 2020/2021 and laid out plans to improve Judicial services delivery and revamp the image of the institution.
Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo was addressing Judicial officers at the Annual General Meeting of the Uganda Judicial Officers’ Association, (UJOA) held virtually on Thursday. UJOA is the umbrella body that brings together all Judicial officers in Uganda.
The Chief Justice, noted that, despite the Covid-19 induced tough times, the Judiciary was resilient and managed to register commendable achievements.
Construction of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court
Presently, the Judiciary is erecting a 63.9 Billion complex that will solve the problem of lack of office space for court of appeal and supreme court judges and court staff.
The construction project bankrolled by the Government of Uganda once complete will save the Judiciary 6 Billion Uganda Shillings in rental expenses.
Electronic Court Case Management Information System (ECCMIS)
Since 2019, the Judiciary has been developing this legal technology to enable with electronic filing of court cases, easy access to case information, curbing loss of files, reducing corruption, among others – to achieve equitable access to Judicial services.
The system is now being tested and is expected to be commissioned in the next month, the Chief Justice said. It will then be piloted in 18 Courts before rollout across the Country.
Funding of the Judiciary
Despite being the least funded of the three arms of Uganda’s government, the Judiciary’s budget has now increased from 191 Billion Uganda Shillings to 318 Billion Uganda Shillings in Financial Year 2021/2022.
” We are still pushing for better funding and a better Judiciary” Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo said.
The Judiciary needs more funding in order to hire more judicial and non judicial staff, cater for salary increments, build more courts and Justice centres, among other priorities, according to the Chief Justice.
Judicial staff could get about 40% in Salary increments if a proposed salary structure currently before cabinet is approved. Government has already released 6 Billion Uganda Shillings to pay judicial officers’ retirement benefits.
Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo also revealed plans to establish a specialised infrastructure and environmental court to replace the Executions and Bailiffs division which was shut down last year. The Court will exclusively handle environment matters.
The establishment of this Court is timely owing to the ever-growing concerns over of our changing environment, the Chief Justice said.
” Cases of poaching, wetland encroachment, hazardous waste disposal, interfering with the eco-flow and depleting critical fora are some of the key concerns to be managed’
The Judiciary will also spearhead an amendment to the Magistrates Courts Act to allow Magistrates Grade 1 handle matters above 20 Million in order to align the law with prevailing market conditions and inflation.
“ Given the escalating inflation levels and the current market values of products, it would appear that very soon Magistrates Courts may have no work. An average motor vehicle goes for about 50 Million while a 50*100 plot of land in the suburbs of any city costs about 50 Million Shillings, yet the bulk of Judicial officers who are Magistrates Grade 1 can only handle disputes up to 20Million Shillings” The Chief Justice said.
In the current financial year, the Judiciary will also construct High Court circuits in Rukungiri, Mpigi, Luwero and expand the Judicial training institute, among other projects.