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Judiciary Seeks UGX 202B for Court Construction, Case Management

The construction of the Supreme Court building is expected to cost 10.9 billion Shillings while the regional appellant courts will altogether cost 14.2 billion Shillings. The money is also envisaged to cover the procurement of vehicles at a cost of 12.6 billion Shillings, case management and implementation of case back reduction strategy, which will take 29.4 billion Shillings and operational expenses at 30.9 billion.
The Judiciary Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana.

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The judiciary needs an additional allocation of 202 billion Shillings next financial year to cater for the construction of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal buildings in Mbarara and Gulu, among others. 

The construction of the Supreme Court building is expected to cost 10.9 billion Shillings while the regional appellant courts will altogether cost 14.2 billion Shillings.  The money is also envisaged to cover the procurement of vehicles at a cost of 12.6 billion Shillings, case management and implementation of case back reduction strategy, which will take 29.4 billion Shillings and operational expenses at 30.9 billion.

The budget was tabled before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament by the Judiciary Permanent Secretary, Pius Bigirimana. He told MPs that out of the required 575.4 billion Shillings total budget by Judiciary, only 371.3 billion has been provided by the Ministry of Finance which he says is not sufficient to cover their budget for the next financial year.

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Meanwhile, Bigirimana told MPs that apart from the High Court which was able to meet its set targets in the last financial year 2020/2021, all the other court levels failed to dispose of the minimum number of cases allocated to them mainly due to COVID-19.

The High Court disposed of 35,350 cases more than the 29.180 cases that it planned to handle. Bigirimana attributed the performance to the use of plea bargaining and mediation, weeding out dormant cases and using video conferencing systems to hear cases during the lockdown. Meanwhile, Under the Magistrates’ Courts, 119,919 cases were disposed out of the planned 148,000 planned cases.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court handled only 102 cases out of the 120 cases they planned to dispose of while the Court of Appeal handled only 1,504 cases out of the planned 1,792 cases. Bigirimana attributed the Supreme Court underperformance to prioritizing the disposal of the Presidential Election Petition while the Court of Appeal prioritized Constitutional cases.

However, Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa rejected the excuse saying that this was the shortest presidential election petition which the Supreme Court should not use as an excuse.

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MP's Solomon Silwany, Bosco Okiror, and Wilson Twinomugisha asked the Judiciary to address the issue of absenteeism by judicial officers before asking for more funds. they argue that many Ugandans have been denied access to justice because of the absence of judicial officers in courts across the country.

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In response, the Judiciary Chief Registrar Sarah Langa told MPs that they consider absenteeism, corruption and other disciplinary cases seriously and that several officers of the court have been interdicted over the same. She, however, observed a need to fast track the interdictions and other disciplinary actions and that the effort should be for everyone to report these cases. 

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Bigirimana told MPs that some of the priorities of the Judiciary in the coming financial year are the implementation of the recently approved Judiciary staff structure under the Administration of Judiciary Act to increase the number of judicial officers to be in tandem with the non-judicial officers. He said that they plan to recruit five Justices of the Supreme Court, eight Justices of Court of Appeal, 31 High Court Judges, 24 Deputy Registrars, 60 Chief Magistrates and others.

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