- The issue: Training LC officials
Our view: The Judicial Service Commission, a government body which is mandated to teach the public about the law, should in that regard up its game and train the newly elected LCs about their roles so as to minimise the misapplication of the law
The Judiciary has commenced training of village chair- persons on how they can effectively play their primary role of administering justice as well as championing mediation of disputes in their respective jurisdictions. The maiden training saw more than 600 village chairpersons trained in Luweero District.
During the training, cases involving land disputes featured most, which was obvious, given that land disputes are rampant, not only in Luweero but also across the country. It is now coming to a year since Local Council chairpersons were voted into office that had been vacant for nearly two decades.
Local Council chairpersons, who superintend over the village courts, are best suited to explore the option of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which primarily encourages settling of disputes through arbitration. That leaves all the affected parties in a win-win situation.
The process entails settling of village disputes through negotiation initiated by trusted elders and LC chairpersons as opposed to resorting to expensive and tedious litigation whose results (judgment) leave one party bitter and condemned to pay costs.
If arbitration is popularised, it can save the spillover of small disputes into the formal courts, lessening the already existing huge case backlog that is standing at 37,827 cases, according to the 2015 Judiciary case census report.
However, despite being in existence for about a year, one of our reporters while attending a judicial outreach last week in Kalangala District, realised that LC1 chairpersons are not well conversant with their roles as set out in the Local Government Act.
For example, they were asking complainants to pay filing fees ranging between Shs2,000 and Shs5,000, yet the law recommends a filing fee of Shs500.
One wonders how widespread the misapplication of the law by LC chairpersons is as they administer justice to the grassroots communities, who are majority litigants.
The Judicial Service Commission, a government body, which is mandated to teach the public about the law, should in that regard up its game and train the newly elected LCs about their roles so as to minimise the misapplication of the law.
In the meantime, we also implore the Judiciary to spread out its wings and conduct training programmes for the LC1 chairpersons countrywide on how best they can handle mediation as recently promised by Chief Justice Bart Katureebe in Luweero District.