The Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine has said the judiciary needs more judges if they are to deal with the case backlog. According to Case Backlog Reduction Committee CBRC report released early this year, more than 155,000 cases were pending at all levels of courts.
Justice Bamwine made the appeal while speaking to judicial officers during their special general assembly today in Kampala today.
He said that many people have been asking him why the judiciary does not appoint more judges. He notes that the government has already signed the certificate of financial implication for the Administration of the Judiciary Bill, a proposed piece of legislation which seeks to provide for and strengthen the independence of the Judiciary.
This means that government has committed to enact the Administration of the Judiciary Bill. According to Justice Bamwine, this is the first step towards increasing the number of judges.
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According to Case Backlog Reduction Committee (CBRC) report released early this year, more than 155,000 cases were pending at all levels of courts.
The delay in adjudication of cases was attributed 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.
While Parliament in August 2009 resolved to increase the number of judges from 50 to 82, the numbers have not been increased due to the financial implication.
Chief Justice Bart Katureebe told judicial officers that the Ministry of Finance together with the Judiciary harmonised the figures for the Judiciary Administration Bill from 69 billion to 14.3 billion Shillings. He noted that previously the finance ministry had said government could not proceed with the bill due to its financial implication. He said he is optimistic that things will work out once the bill is passed by parliament now that a financial implication certificate has been signed by the treasury.
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The minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, said that he intends to table the Judiciary Administration bill in parliament next week. He noted that this will enable the judiciary to attain some financial independence.
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Justice Wilson Masalu Musene, the resident Judge of Mpigi High Court made a proposal to the assembly that the appointment of judges should give priority to the judicial officers to allow mobility and staff development.
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Godfrey Kaweesa, the Iganga Chief Magistrate who is also president of the Uganda Judicial Officers Association (UJOA), explained that the number of judges is still low compared to the growing population and high crime rates across the country.
During their assembly, UJOA members recommended to the Judicial Service Commission, a Constitutional body mandated to recruit judicial officers and regulate their conduct, to consider at least three quarters of the new judges from within the judicial officers to allow for growth in ranks.
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During the same assembly, the judicial officers called off a nationwide strike that started on August 25 to protest poor remuneration and government failure to honour its commitment to increase their salaries.
They want the salary of the Chief Justice increased from 20 million to 55 million Shillings and for the Deputy Chief Justice from 18 million to 53 million Shillings.
They are also suggesting a salary increment for the Principal Judge from the current 10 million to 50 million Shillings.
Under the current judiciary salary structure, Grade Two Magistrates earn 737,837 Shillings a month, while Senior Grade Two Magistrates earn 860,810 Shillings. Principal Magistrate Grade Two earn 1.2 million Shillings while Grade One Magistrates earn 1.5 million Shillings.
On a different salary scale are Principal Grade One Magistrates who earn 2.1 million Shillings, Senior Principal Magistrate Grade One gets 2.2 million Shillings, Chief Magistrates earn 2.4 million Shillings, Assistant Registrars 3.1 million Shillings and Chief Registrars earn 4.8 million Shillings.