By Joachim Ssembuze
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has, in acting capacity appointed 15 Chief Magistrates in a move to boost legal service delivery as well as operationalize more Magisterial Areas.
According to the Judiciary’s Registrar Sarah Langa Siu, the newly appointed officers would be deployed soon after they accept the appointments.
“The latest appointments are mostly intended to address the staffing gaps in the magisterial areas especially in view of the anticipated election related petitions with strict timelines” she said.
The judiciary currently has only 42 of the 100 Magistrates in its structure which still slows the effective flow of work with in the arm.
While swearing in members of the Judicial Service Commission in Kampala last week, the Chief Justice, Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, said the desire of the judiciary today would be to have at least a chief magistrate per district and a magistrate Grade one per constituency.
The Chief Justice also said Uganda needs the structure of the court of appeal justices to be increased from the current 15 to 32 and that of the high court judges to be increased from 82 to 150.
Meanwhile, the arm has also issued a number of contingency measures to be applied in election petitions hearings in a move to mitigate the spread of COVID19 pandemic.
While addressing journalists at the Uganda Media Centre on Monday, the judiciary spokesperson Jamson Karemani, noted that normally election related hearings attract big numbers of supporters of contesting candidates yet COVID19 is still around citing that it’s the main reason they (judiciary) have come up with such measures.
He noted that supporters of candidates shall not be allowed in the court halls and premises but instead shall be represented by the media that will be giving the public detailed information regarding the court proceedings.
“Regardless of the space available during petition hearings, parties, their lawyers and witnesses must not be bound irrespective of the existing COVID19 pandemic,” he noted.
In addition, Karemani also said that some court sessions will be held in open spaces depending on the circumstances prevailing.
“We bear in mind that this is an international happening, we may have to see a situation where the courts will not be operating inside court rooms but rather open space like tents to have a situation where our health is well,” he said.
He also noted that each Judicial Officer shall not hold more than two petitions per day citing that holding beyond that may disrupt the intention given the fact that the more petitions handled, the more numbers that come in.
He however noted that they are not only waking up at election petitions to fight the pandemic citing that regulations have been in place since its outbreak.
“The Judiciary has been issuing various circulars with regard to COVID19 in the county as a measure to mitigate its spread,” he said