More than 150,000 cases still unresolved in courts - report

Justice Richard Buteera (right), chairman of the committee that studied cases backlog in courts, hands over their report to Chief Justice Bart Katureebe at the High Court in Kampala yesterday. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

KAMPALA- More than 155,400 cases were pending at all levels of courts as of January 31 this year, a report by Case Backlog Reduction Committee (CBRC) has revealed.

Released yesterday, it shows that criminal cases constitute 44 per cent of unresolved cases, civil cases (33 per cent), land cases (14 per cent), family cases (three per cent) while commercial cases constitute two per cent.

Chaired by Court of Appeal Judge, Richard Buteera, the committee attributed delay in adjudication of cases to poor work attitudes and performance of judicial officers, limited powers of lower courts, inadequate number of judicial staff as well as ill-preparation of advocates.

The CBRC report was handed over to Chief Justice Bart Katureebe yesterday at High Court in Kampala.

“We recommend that judges should spend their time more in the courtroom/chambers handling cases. As such any events which take judges out of court should happen in a specific season to avoid disrupting the ordinary working of court,” reads the report.

Justice Buteera said that judicial officers should deliver overdue judgments by April 2017 and judicial officers who fail to fulfill their duty without a valid explanation should face sanctions.
“Cause-listing of cases should be done jointly with all stakeholders for proper implementation of case disposal and the judiciary should advocate the re-establishment of Local Council courts to help reduce on the cases that come into the mainstream system,” the report recommended.

The findings followed the 2015 National Court Case Census, which revealed that a staggering 114,809 cases had not been disposed of, with one in every four pending for more than a decade.

Case backlog, by the Ugandan Judiciary’s definition, refers to court cases not resolved within two years.
In commending the committee, Chief Justice Katureebe said the Judiciary and its stakeholders would study and implement the report.

“We have been accused of being slow and inefficient but we needed to make a diagnosis to find a solution. Many cases pending had been confused with backlog but this report has properly identified the causes and made recommendations for us to implement.”

He suggested that the Judicial Service Commission should start looking for means to discipline judicial officers who fail to execute their duties.

The Chief Justice agreed with the committee to establish a taskforce to monitor implementation of the recommendations but also asked the heads of department and divisions to make suggestions.