-To Handle Cases Up To UGX100M
By Insight Post Uganda
In a significant move to address the mounting case backlog in the Ugandan judicial system, Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera has announced the expeditious process of revising the pecuniary jurisdiction of Grade I Magistrates’ courts.
The proposal seeks to raise the monetary jurisdiction from UGX 20 million to UGX 100 million. The announcement came during the induction opening ceremony for newly appointed acting and Grade I Magistrates at Collin Hotel Mukono.
Justice Buteera further stressed the importance of this revision, highlighting its potential to alleviate the high court’s case backlog.
“The Judiciary is putting bits and pieces together to enhance your pecuniary jurisdiction from 20 million shillings to about 100 million,” he stated, adding that research and consultations are still going on, but that is one of the proposals.
This means that you must be ready to shoulder a lot of responsibilities, especially during this transition to the new Judiciary ushered into by the enactment of the Administration of Judiciary Act 2020.
Currently, the geographical and monetary jurisdiction of a Magistrate Grade One, as provided under Sec. 207 (1) (b) of the Magistrates Court Act Cap 16, limits them to presiding over cases not exceeding twenty million shillings. Furthermore, it prohibits them from trying offenses with a maximum penalty of death or life imprisonment.
To create a competent and efficient workforce, Justice Buteera advised the magistrates to maintain discipline in their roles, urging them to steer clear of corruption, absenteeism, tardiness, leaving work early, mismanagement of court registries, archives, and property, incompetence, and arrogance toward court staff and users. He also emphasized the importance of recognizing the supervisory roles and guidance provided by Chief Magistrates and other supervisors.
“You need to recognise the supervisory role and guidance of your Chief Magistrates and other supervisors. This is necessary for your mentorship as well as enabling you to learn from your peers to avoid obvious mistakes, he explained, noting that these roles are highlighted in the Schedule of Duties and Key Performance Indicators for Registrars and Magistrates Manual. I encourage you to read this manual.
Justice Michael Chibita, the Chairperson of the Governing Board of the Judicial Training Institute, encouraged the newly appointed magistrates to appreciate the significance of their offices in delivering better service to the public. He highlighted a cautionary tale of a colleague who did not value his appointment, as reported in the press.
“One of your colleagues did not appreciate the appointment given to him, according to the press, he sneaked and sat examination papers for his girlfriend, and this explains why he is not here for induction,” Justice Chibita noted.
This colleague, Magistrate Musa Ammaari Ssemogerere, made headlines on July 26 when he was caught sitting an examination on behalf of his girlfriend, Irene Mutonyi, who was a student at the institute. Ssemogerere was among the 87 magistrates appointed by the Judicial Service Commission on July 13 of the same year.
Justice Damalie Lwanga, the Executive Director of the Judicial Training Institute, informed the attendees that the induction program aimed at training judicial officers on their responsibilities and tasks would span two weeks. This comprehensive training is designed to equip the magistrates with the skills and knowledge they need to perform their roles effectively and uphold the integrity of the Ugandan judiciary.
The proposed increase in monetary jurisdiction for Grade I Magistrates is expected to not only address the case backlog but also improve access to justice for Ugandan citizens by allowing these magistrates to handle a broader range of cases.
As the judiciary works towards these changes, it is clear that a commitment to discipline and professional conduct is essential for the success of this transformation.