Judges, judicial officers trade blame over case backlog in Judiciary

Justice Kasule (R) and Prof. Ssempebwa at a recent function.

KAMPALA- Judicial officers in a heated debate on Friday incriminated themselves and cited mistrust among judges and registrars, laziness among judges who spend valuable hours reading newspapers instead of hearing cases as the leading causes of case backlog in the Judiciary.

The judges, who traded the sharp accusations during the release of the report on case backlog reduction at Grand Imperial Hotel in Kampala, also singled out the disconnect among colleagues who sit on panels in appellate courts among causes that are piling up the case backlog.

“Judges don’t work…, they report late for duty, read newspapers and go back home; that is the cause of case backlog…,” A tough talking Justice Kenneth Kakuru of the Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court, said.

“The ones who work are punished. Somebody is in Criminal Division finishes all his backlog and somebody in Civil [Division] has done nothing. The one in Criminal Division is transferred to Civil Divisionto deal with the backlog. The one who created the backlog is transferred to the Division where the backlog was cleared and now creates a new backlog.”
Justice Kakuru added amid cheers from fellow judges.

He continued: “The ones who work are punished and those who don’t work are promoted and you wonder what the rationale is. Let’s us keep time and work.”
The current case backlog stands at 28,864 cases.
A case falls under the category of backlog when it has spent in the court system more than two years without being concluded.

Justice Remmy Kasule also from the Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court, cited the disconnect among fellow judges as the cause of case backlog mainly in appellate courts since the courts work by way of panels.

“At an appellate court where you have to deal with colleagues, what happens if there is a disconnect between the team that has handled a particular appeal? This matter of disconnect needs to be addressed,” Justice Kasule challenged.

He also cited the procedure or process of allocating of case files to a judge or judges as another big challenge that has led to the creation of case backlog mainly at Court of Appeal where he works.

Justice Kasule explained that a case file may be complete and ready for hearing but the only thing pending is mere allocation that he said sometimes takes years.

During the heated debate, Mr Tadeo Asiimwe from the Inspectorate department of the Judiciary, weighed in and cited mistrust by some judges as the cause of the case backlog.

He said some judges cling onto hearing simple applications for interim orders instead of concentrating on hearing the man cases.
“Mistrust between the judges and the registrars is another cause for case backlog. Every circuit has a registrar but you find 80 per cent of the interim applications are coming from a judge, why?” Mr Asiimwe wondered.

“A judge is expected to hear the main case but a judge sits from morning to evening to pass an order which is similar to what the registrar issued, why? This registrar is capable for heaven’s sake,” he challenged his colleagues.

“So this mistrust is wrong, we have registrars who are competent and are even aspiring to become judges and can handle the applications.” Mr Asiimwe counseled.

The reduction committee on case backlog was launch by Chief Justice Bart Katureebe after the release of the census report that indicated that there were 114,809 cases pending disposal in the Judiciary as at December 9, 2015.

Among the tasks that the justice Buteera-led reduction committee was expected to handle included identifying the extent of the case backlog, identifying and documenting the causes of the backlog, reviewing current efforts to reduce the case backlog and making recommendations to address the existing backlog and stopping the growth of a new backlog.


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