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Judiciary to re-gazette magisterial areas as Ugandans decry case backlog

Nabweru Chief Magistrate's court

Nabweru Chief Magistrate's court

Residents of Nansana Municipality have cited the delayed conclusion of cases, travelling long distances and failure to reclaim bail money as some challenges faced as they seek justice in courts of law. J

They revealed these before principal judge Dr Flavian Zeija who was officiating at the Nabweru Chief Magistrate's court open day. During the open day, the judiciary visits communities to get feedback about their services and challenges faced by the court users in relation to the dispensation of justice.

The locals further told Zeija that they donated land for the construction of Nabweru Chief Magistrates court but when its operations started, the court instead started hearing cases from Nansana Municipality. And when Nansana Grade One Magistrate's court was established, there was confusion on which court should hear cases from the three divisions.

Besides the Nabweru and Nansana courts, sometimes residents are informed that their cases will be heard from Wakiso Magistrate's court which is far from them. Dr Zeija said that plans are underway to re-gazette all the magisterial areas in the country such that court users will no longer have to travel or trek longer distances to seek justice.

As of last year, Uganda's total case backlog stood at 50,592 cases (30.11 per cent) against 168,007 pending ones. Zeija also said that they plan to amend the laws governing magistrates court such that their mandate or powers are expanded from hearing cases whose value is not more than Shs 50 million to cases with much value. He has also cautioned judicial officers against being rude when handling litigants.

At the same event, different players in the justice system including Uganda Law Society, Uganda Police Force, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Uganda Prisons Services explained to the community about their different roles as institutions and what the public should expect from them.

Simon Peter Siima, the assistant OC of Luzira Upper Prison said that they receive complaints from the public about prisoners who have been released before completion of their respective sentences.

Siima said that every person convicted and sentenced to serve a jail term in prison is entitled to remission which is a third of the punishment imposed by the courts. He explained that if the prisoner conducts himself in a good manner, they can have their sentences reduced.

Musa Mulangira Kanakulya and Expedito Kizito Salongo the local council leaders in the area decried the low pay, saying that they earn only Shs 10,000 and that lawyers normally come and execute agreements with their area residents without their involvement, especially in land transactions.

However, Zeija said that issues of low payments should be addressed to the resident district commissioner. He further said that matters to do with lawyers should be addressed by the Law Council which is charged with regulating the conduct of advocates.

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