By Agaba Christopher
The government is seeking to recruit 122 senior judicial officers, among them 11 judges and 27 registrars, deputies, and assistants, to bolster capacity for fast-tracking justice administration countrywide.
According to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the agency that recruits remunerate, and disciplines judicial officials, up to 71 grade, one magistrate and 13 chief magistrate positions are up for grabs.
According to JSC, the successful individuals will first serve on a one- or two-year contract, mirroring probationary recruitment of judicial officers reintroduced with President Museveni’s May appointment of 16 High Court judges on an initial two-year contract.
This planned enlistment of 11 new High Court judges will increase their numbers to 83, closing the manpower gap in line with Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo’s priority to extend judicial services nearer to the people through the establishment of additional court circuits.
High courts, for instance, try capital offenses, and insiders say a higher number of judges on the lower bench presents an opportunity for accelerated clearance of related case backlogs blamed for inmates’ crowding in prisons.
“We are excited to see the number of vacancies advertised, this will help dispense quick justice, and we all know justice delayed is justice denied. However, we still have a way to go and still need more judicial officers, especially staff in the High Court,” Mr Martin Asingwire, the Uganda Law Society (ULS) vice president, said.
While pitching for additional staffing in the High Courts, Mr. Asingwire added: “We also need to increase efficiency, especially through the recent developments in ICT like the Electronic Court Case Management Information System .”
The Judiciary spokesperson, Mr. Jameson Karemani, welcomed the planned recruitment as timely for improving citizens’ access to justice.
“This is a big boost for the Judiciary. It improves access to justice for Ugandans and definitely will see the backlog drastically reduce. We are on the right track,” he said.
According to Ms Sarah Langa, the chief registrar, the increasing number of judicial officers places the Judiciary on course to achieve its target of establishing a Court of Appeal in each region, more High Court circuits, a Chief Magistrate’s Court in every district and a Grade One Magistrate’s Court in every constituency.
“[This is] all in a continuous effort to reduce the backlog,” she said.
Highly-placed sources told this newspaper that the Judiciary has accelerated recruitments in line with Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo’s vision to take portals for justice access to the last mile.
Under his administration, the number of Supreme Court justices has doubled to 20, there are now 55 judges at the Court of Appeal up from 14, while High Court judges will, following the new recruitments, number 83.
This will still be lower than the 150 judges that the Judiciary Council has recommended.
Targeted judicial officials
According to the council blueprint, the number of chief magistrates and grade one magistrates in the country should increase from 100 to 160 and from 386 to 514, respectively, but there is no timeline for the target. The Judiciary currently has 72 judges, 77 chief magistrates, and 301 grade one magistrates — the highest ever in the country’s history. In comments made last year, Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo said a case would be disposed of within a year if each district had a magistrate.