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Judiciary introduces small claims procedure in Western region courts

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Kabale High Court Resident Judge (Right) at the Launch of Small Claims Procedure-SCP in Kyanika as the Registrar in charge of SCP Mastulah Mulondo looks on from behind. PHOTO URN

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Judiciary has introduced the Small Claims Procedure, one of the measures put in place to quicken the resolution of small commercial disputes in three courts in the Western Uganda Region.

According to Resident Judge of Kabale High Court Samuel Emokor, the Judiciary has introduced the initiative in Bunagana, Kyanika, and Rubanda Courts.

The Judiciary will also extend the same to Ndeija and Rwashameire Magistrates Courts on Wednesday and Tuesday respectively this week as one of the projects to be done in this quarter of the Financial year 2022/2023.

Small Claims are commercial disputes whose subject value is not more than 10 million shillings. Most of these normally arise from failure to pay rent, supply of goods, and debts among others.

While officiating at the launch in Bunagana and Rubanda on Tuesday, Justice Emokor said that the Small Claims Procedure is one of the innovations put in place by the Judiciary, and if used well, it will enable people to finish their matters fast, with no involvement of lawyers and court can be conducted in the local language.

“This is a positive move because before it, one had to have a lawyer to file a case and the rules of procedure were clear on how to write this plaint. Now Small Claims Procedure is waiving all these procedures”, said the Judge.

He added that in some cases, judgment is given immediately, and in other times it takes less than 14 days for one to know his fate. Justice Emokor therefore called upon the people near these courts to embrace the Small Claims Procedure and take advantage of it.

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On his part, the Resident District Commissioner for Kisoro District Hajji Badruh Ssebyala appreciated the Judiciary for implementing President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s Manifesto and encouraged the area leaders present to take time to read it.

Ssebyala also encouraged them to spread the message of the Small Claims Procedure in their communities saying it is a very fast, cheap, and efficient procedure for handling their small civil-commercial disputes.

According to the Annual Performance Report of the Judiciary for 2022/23 which was released a few months ago, the Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo noted that a total of 16.8 billion shillings was recovered through Small Claims cases hence contributing back to the economy.

The Chief Justice also revealed that there was a large number of cases being registered in the court system which was increasing for which the RDC Sebyala said the Judiciary must come up with measures to have these cases disposed of fast.

The RDC also commended the Kisoro Chief Magistrate Kenneth Komakech for handling matters fast for he has a backlog of only nine cases.

In 2021, the Constitutional Court Justices led by Justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende quashed rule 8(2) and 3 of the Judicature Small Claims Procedure rules of 2011 which initially barred Advocates from small claims proceedings and barring cross-examination of witnesses in such cases.

The Justices argued that the said rules contravene the Constitutional right to fair hearing which also includes the right to legal representation. This now paved the way for lawyers to participate in small claims cases, although the government has since appealed against the Constitutional Court decision in the Supreme Court.

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The Chairperson of the Small Claims Procedure Implementation Committee of the Judiciary Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire has since revealed that they were equally aggrieved with that decision to bring lawyers on board saying that hat together with the Principal Judge Dr Flavian Zeija they set up a team of five Court Registrars who should work in hand with the State Attorneys in Attorney General’s chambers to make sure that they successfully appeal against the decision in issue.

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