Members of Parliament engaged in a discussion over the Judicature Amendment Bill, 2023, which proposes an increase in the number of Court of Appeal and Supreme Court judges. The bill, introduced by Justice Minister Norbert Mao in July, aims to address the backlog of cases and expedite the dispensation of justice.
Chief Registrar Sarah Langa Siu and Uganda Law Reform Commission (ULRC) Chairperson Dr. Pamela Tibihikirra-Kalyegira appeared before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to discuss the proposed amendments.
Langa argued that increasing the number of judges would expedite the justice system, citing the significant number of pending cases and backlogs. However, Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu challenged this argument, stating that case backlog is primarily caused by poor case management, planning, and productivity of judges.
Katuntu compared the situation in Uganda to more populous jurisdictions, highlighting that the United States, with a population of around 340 million, has nine Supreme Court judges. He further pointed out that India, with a population of 1.4 billion, has 34 Supreme Court judges, emphasizing the uniqueness of the proposed increase in Uganda.
In response, Katuntu argued that Uganda cannot afford a bloated judiciary and legislature. He suggested alternative mechanisms such as mediation, alternative dispute resolution, and technological innovations to address the backlog of cases. Counsel Tonny Tumukunde echoed this sentiment, recommending the introduction of innovative solutions and increased staffing at lower courts.
The debate reflects the ongoing efforts to balance the need for an efficient justice system with the practical and financial constraints faced by the Ugandan government. The discussions will likely shape the final decision on the proposed amendments to the judicature system.