(L-R) Minister Mao, Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo and Justice Musa SSekaana.
Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo celebrated reduced case backlog in the judiciary. He made the revelation while presenting the Judiciary annual performance report for the financial year 2022/2023 at the High Court in Kampala on Friday (October 20, 2023) in the presence of several stakeholders in the justice system including development partners.
In the reporting financial year, the Judiciary completed 266,323 out of a total caseload of 422,672 cases marking a reduction to 27.4% from 32% in the previous year. He attributed the reduction in case backlog to the increased number of judicial officers and the enhancement of the Judiciary budget from sh199b to sh381b.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Nobert Mao commended Owiny-Dollo for the exemplary leadership, which he said, has enabled the Judiciary to register huge success.
"I urge all judicial officers that in order to achieve the ambitious goals, you have set for yourselves, you have to be like a solar system able to know what must change and what must not change," Mao said.
"Overall, courts closed with a pending caseload of 156,349 cases of which 42,960 were backlog and this accounted for 27.48% of cases as backlog from 32% in the financial year 2020/21 which translates into a 4.52% reduction in backlog," Owiny-Dollo noted.
In the reporting financial year, the Judiciary completed 266,323 out of a total caseload of 422,672 cases. The caseload comprised 128,652 cases brought forward from financial year 2021/22 and 294,020 freshly registered cases in financial year 2022/23.
"As a result of the improvement in the disposal of cases, the average time taken (in days) from filing to disposal of cases has also reduced. The courts completed cases faster by three weeks in the financial year 2022/23 as opposed to previous years," Owiny-Dollo noted.
Because of the good performance, relying on the 2023 survey done by Avocats Sans Frontiers, the percentage of court users rating confidence in courts has increased from 61% to 71%.
Owiny-Dollo noted that the Judiciary has experienced steady growth in the number of completed cases up to 266,323 cases in financial year 2022/23 from 205,967 cases in financial year 2021/22 and 156,875 cases in the 2020/21 financial year.
During the reporting period, the Magistrates Grade One courts recorded the highest disposal of 134,583 cases followed by Chief Magistrates with 35,108 cases and this is because the two courts have the highest staffing gap and also handle the bulk of the cases in the judiciary.
Currently, the judiciary has a total of 649 judicial officers and this represents an improved judicial officer-to-population ratio of 1:70,203 from 1:81,724 in the previous financial year.
During the financial year, Owiny-Dollo said significant efforts were made to improve access to justice services and combat case backlog by operationalizing six High Court Circuits; Luwero, Iganga, Tororo, Rukungiri, Moroto, and Hoima which had been non-operational since their establishment in 2016.They bring the total number of High Court circuits to twenty.
2,857 cases were completed through plea bargain at the High Court level, while 1,160 cases were completed through the day-to-day hearing of cases and 1,697 cases through plea bargain camps.
Under magistrates' courts, 2,389 cases were completed through a plea bargain and this reflects an 88.12% clearance rate with an average lead time of less than one day.
Under the small claims procedure, 22,092 cases were completed recovering claims of a total value of sh16.4b as compared to sh11.1b released in the previous financial year.
When it comes to the special sessions on Sexual, Gender Based Violence (SGBV) related cases; the courts disposed of 319 cases out of the 359 cases listed thereby recording a clearance rate of 88.86%.
On juvenile trials, the judiciary conducted four criminal sessions at Naguru remand home completing an average of 20 cases per sitting. The report indicates that there is no case backlog at Naguru remand home. In a bid to strengthen the legal and regulatory framework and enhance access to justice in the country, Owiny-Dollo disclosed that eleven laws are under review. He also reminded that as is enshrined in the Constitution, Judicial power belongs to the people; we who are called judicial officers are mere delegates because we render justice in the name of and for the people and of this country.