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Speaking during the launch at Masaka Court premises on Thursday, Justice David Wangutsi, the head of High Court Commercial Division, said the new arrangement saves time and promotes reconciliation between the warring parties
The judiciary has launched the mediation system in Masaka District to reduce case backlog in courts.
Mediation is a way of resolving disputes amicably between two or more parties. Typically, a third party (mediator) assists the parties to negotiate an amicable settlement out of court.
Speaking during the launch at Masaka Court premises on Thursday, Justice David Wangutsi, the head of High Court Commercial Division, said the new arrangement saves time and promotes reconciliation between the warring parties.
“This arrangement allows judicial officers time to handle cases which are generally not agreeable in line with mediation like defilement, robbery and murder cases. We have extended it here and we expect it to work,” he said.
Among cases that will be handled under the mediation system include land disputes, family issues, breach of contract, encroachment, child negligence and damages.
Justice Wangutsi said more than 50,000 civil cases are currently pending in different courts yet they can easily be resolved outside court by different persons qualified in adjudication. In Masaka District alone last year, 679 cases were registered, but 442 were disposed of, leaving a backlog of 237 cases. Only 46 cases were settled out of court.
Justice Wangutsi said the judiciary would train mediators who will handle such matters without taking them to court.
He said the initiative will involve lawyers and retired judges to make the system work.
He further said they also intend to make it mandatory for all courts, including Magistrate’s Courts, to allow civil cases first go into mediation before going for trial in court.
The resident judge, Justice Margaret Oumo Oguli, however, warned judicial officers who will be hired into the mediation system to avoid fraud.
Masaka Chief Magistrate, Mary Ikit, expressed concern that some districts such as Kalangala are not likely to benefit from the mediation system because they have only one magistrate who cannot handle both criminal and civil cases and carry out mediation at the same time.
She, therefore, appealed to the government to deploy more magistrates in Kalangala.
“Sometimes we are forced to travel to the district for few weeks to handle cases like criminal ones that require little time,” Ikit added.
Last year, Justice Oguli spent two weeks in Kalangala hearing about 60 criminal cases due to lack of judicial staff in the district.
Latest statistics obtained from the judiciary indicate that there are 16,782 pending civil cases in the High Court, 17,363 cases in Chief Magistrate’s Courts and 3,888 in Grade One Magistrate’s Courts.
In total, the civil case backlog in the country stands at 38,033.
In the early 2000, mediation was piloted in the Commercial Court as an alternative to litigation, and many cases were successfully mediated. Judicial officers were left with time to try cases which are ordinarily not amenable to mediation – substantially increasing the productivity of the courts, satisfaction, and confidence of court users in the justice system.