Courts surpassed case disposal targets by 51% in the first quarter of Financial Year 2022/2023, according to a performance report presented by Judiciary Chief Registrar Sarah Langa Siu heralding optimism in the delivery of Justice in the country.
Since July through September 2022, a total of 68,075 cases have been completed across all Courts from the Supreme Court down to Magistrate Grade 2 surpassing the set disposal target of 44,295 cases for the quarter.
“As of 14th October, 2022, a total of 68,075 cases had been completed across all Court levels from the Supreme Court to the Magistrates Courts while 167,594 cases remained pending” Chief Registrar Sarah Langa Siu said.
The Chief Registrar revealed that the Judiciary is shifting its focus from case backlog management to case management and as a result some of the cases were disposed of through case management innovations like plea bargaining in Criminal cases, Small Claims Procedure and Mediation in civil matters.
Indeed, during the quarter, 2960 cases were completed through Small Claims Procedure while 184 cases were completed through mediation and 17 completed through appellate mediation.
Overall, all courts met and surpassed their respective set case disposal targets except Magistrate Grade 2.
In the High Court, both at Division and Circuit levels, the set disposal target of 7,295 cases was surpassed by 43% as the High Court completed 11,804 cases – 14% of the 64,052 cases in the Court at the start of the quarter.
The Family Division of the High Court registered the highest court case disposal rate among the divisions of the Court having completed 1,944 cases and the Mukono High Court topped the Circuits of the Court with 1,084 cases completed.
At Magisterial level, the Chief Magistrates’ Courts disposed of 37,795 cases surpassing a disposal target of 25000 cases implying the Court exceeded its targets by 43%.
The “best” performing Court is Makindye Chief Magistrates’ Court which completed 1654 cases followed by Mbarara Chief Magistrates’ Court which completed 1,416 cases and then Fort Portal Chief Magistrates’ Court which concluded 1,398 cases.
Magistrate Grade 1 Court also surpassed its set case disposal target of 11,250 cases registering 17,706 cases representing a disposal rate of 43.32%. The top performing courts were Kampala City Hall Court which completed 1,424 cases followed by Ngora Court at 615 cases and the Law Development Centre (LDC Court) at 528 cases.
Failing to meet its court case disposal target by 37% was the Magistrate Grade 2 Court which disposed of 556 cases well below its target of 750 cases.
Setting case disposal targets for Courts is a performance tool that was introduced by the Judiciary to monitor and encourage the performance of its Courts as a way of improving speed and efficiency in the delivery of Justice. After all, it is said that Justice delayed is Justice denied.
Earlier this week, the Judiciary praised the Administration of the Judiciary Act as a “game changer legislation” that is helping transform the operations of one of the arms of government.
In terms of case backlog reduction in the quarter under review, the Judiciary posted a paltry 0.57% drop in cases which have been in the Justice system for two or more years.
At the end of the quarter, 49512 cases were deemed backlog out of the overall pending 167,594 cases in the Justice system representing 29.54%.
“At the beginning of the Quarter, backlog was at 30.11% and by the end of September there was a 0.57% drop of the cases under this category” Chief Registrar Sarah Langa Siu said.
Ms Sarah Langa Siu is sanguine that the Judiciary will perform better in the current quarter with the increased number of Judicial officers and the expanded network of Courts which includes 6 new High Court circuits and 16 new magisterial areas.
But there is a challenge: The number of prosecutors is lower than that of Magistrates and this is affecting the adjudication of criminal cases.
Benjamin M. Ahikiiriza is the founder of thelegalreports.com. He is also its Chief Editor and writes about legal news.