Stakeholders Should Re-awaken Debates on Amending Obsolete Laws

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Last updated on January 16th, 2024 at 06:57 pm

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During my clerkship at the Court of Appeal, I was extremely very lucky that I got placed under a judicial officer (Registrar). 

Among the various tasks that Her worship assigned me is to learn as much as I can about what takes place not only in registries and courtroom sessions at my station but also she encouraged me to ensure that I got days in a week to visit nearby courts and more so Magistrates Courts and take note on how trials are conducted in such courts.

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During the short stay of almost three months ‘’pendulum bombing’’ from the Twed Towers-based Court of Appeal to Buganda Road-based Chief Magistrates Court I was exposed to an experience akin to one of a hospital.

Just like a hospital, in court too, one is always assured of meeting people whose faces depict frustrations on them.

 

In any court premises, one is lucky if he/she doesn’t meet a person soliloquizing themselves as they climb stairs or take an elevator on a legal challenge that they are going through or those close to them and friends.

Some of the legal challenges that people are encountering are, unfortunately, a result of archaic procedural laws that tie judicial officers’ hands as they have to live by the letters in the statutes.

This brings me to the debates that were captured in The Judiciary Insider Magazine Issue 03/ April- October 2015 specifically on the theme of the need to update some procedural laws.

In 2015, the Uganda Law Reform Commission organized a symposium of Judges to discuss various proposed amendments in the current justice system aiming at removing bottlenecks.

Some of the laws that they looked at are the Trial on Indictment Act (TIA) and the Magistrates Court Act (MCA), inter alia.

The former is a law that governs criminal proceedings in the High Court among other laws while the latter deals with both criminal and civil proceedings in the magistrates’ courts.

Some of the provisions that were looked at and their Lordship and learned friends felt required modifications include: Section 103 (3) of the MCA on the testimony of children below 12 years.

The Section states that where in any proceedings, any child of tender years called a witness does not, in the opinion of the court understand the nature of the oath, the child’s evidence may be received, though not given upon oath if, in the opinion of the court, the child is possessed of sufficient intelligence.

They were of the view that the current legal regime creates a situation of giving less weight to the evidence of the child unless corroborated and yet chances are that the child would be more truthful.

In the meeting, they suggested that there is a need to amend the MCA by inserting a new section within the existing one that provides that where, in the opinion of the court, a child of tender years understands the nature of an oath or has sufficient intelligence to understand the duty of speaking the truth, that evidence does not need corroboration and Sections 128, 168(4) MCA, inter alia

The bench and the bar meeting also highlighted the aspect of the Plea bargain. This mechanism has since taken shape in every court in the country and rules governing the procedure are in place.

However, with its attendant merits registered so far since its inception, it is yet to be mainstreamed in laws governing the criminal justice system such as the TIA, MCA, CPCA (Criminal Procedure Code Act), etc.

It is almost coming to a decade but many of the suggested provisions in both MCA and TIA as needing alteration are still intact to date!

In the meeting, a six-member committee was set up by Hon. Chief Justice (Emeritus) Bart Katureebe which was comprised of Hon. Justice JWN Tsekooko then acting as Justice of the Supreme Court as Chairperson, Hon. Justice Stephen Musota, Hon. Justice FMS Engonda Ntende, Hon. Justice Eva Luswata and Andrew Khaukha from the Uganda Law Reform Commission.

It is high time for relevant stakeholders more so the Uganda Law Reform Commission and Parliament to aggressively reawaken debates that our gallant men both on the bench and bar had started on amending various laws that have become obsolete in solving contemporary legal challenges which on the look of things it appears it like the discourse has been shelved for good and yes, many Ugandans are bearing the brunt on that aspect.

Unfortunately, they continue to pay stakeholders since they draw their emoluments from the consolidated fund. Thus essentially compatriots are literally suffering twice to use the analogy of charcoal.


       

Musekura Kennedy
Musekura Kenedy

Musekura Kennedy is a Student at the Law Development Centre (LDC) and is currently under clerkship at the Court of Appeal of Uganda.


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