The Judiciary is proposing to increase fees for filing different cases across all courts in the country.
This was revealed on Wednesday by the Principal Judge Dr. Flavian Zeija at Mestil Hotel in Kampala in a meeting with the lawyers. The meeting was aimed at getting the lawyers opinions on five proposed guidelines which include, the Constitution (Sentencing Guidelines for Courts of Judicature) (practice) Directions, 2022, the Judicature (Amicus Curiae) Rules, 2022, the Judicature(Bail) Rules, 2022, the Judicature (Court Bailiff) Rules, 2022 and the Judicature (Representation at the Expense of the State) Rules, 2022 and the Judicature (Court Fees) Rules, 2022.
The guidelines were put in place by the Law Reform Committee of the Judiciary headed by the Principal Judge Dr. Zeija.
Dr Zeija indicated that some of the guidelines create a uniform procedure on how legal issues should be handled at different levels with a view of improving access to justice.
He explained for instance that for the last ten years the Judiciary had not revised the court fees and they saw it as necessary to revise them now the following inflation in the country and also to avoid litigants who would want to file cases for no good reasons.
When a litigant files a case in court, they are required to pay specified court fees to the bank upon assessment by Uganda Revenue Authority-URA and the money that is paid contributes to the pool of non-tax revenue and it does not go to the Judiciary.
However, in the proposed revised fees, filing of an election petition arising from parliamentary elections is proposed to be increased from 150,000 to 1 Million Shillings, Presidential election petition from 120,000 shillings to 2 Million Shillings, City Mayor to 800,000 shillings, LCV, District Mayor’s and City Councilors all to 600,000 shillings.
The guidelines also propose that filing of a constitutional petition is increased from 10,500 shillings to 20,000 shillings, application for execution from 1,500 shillings to 20,000 shillings, filing a bill of costs from 2,500 shillings to 20,000, filing an appeal of 100,000 shillings, filing a civil suit, the petitioner pays 1 percent of the value of the subject matter, miscellaneous cause or originating summons 100,000 Shillings among others.
According to the Principal Judge, they will have discussions with the other stakeholders in the Administration of Justice and the public to get their views on the new guidelines before they can be adopted.
The guidelines on court fees seemed to have been embraced by the lawyers during the meeting but when other guidelines in relation to how much needs to be paid to them when representing an accused person on State brief, the lawyers disagreed.
The Judiciary was for instance proposing that a lawyer should be paid 1 Million Shillings to represent an accused person for the entirety of the case and when the case is coming for a mention, the lawyer is paid 100,000 shillings. Currently, there is no specific amount paid for lawyers on state brief.
One of the lawyers Caleb Alaka said that the money is inadequate due to delays in hearing or deciding on the cases. Alaka cited the case before the International Crimes Division of the High Court where one of the former suspected commanders in the Lord’s Resistance Army Thomas Kwoyelo is facing trial for crimes against humanity but for over seven years the case has never taken shape.
Other lawyers including Susan Wakabala, Paul Mukiibi, and Martin Baryaruha said that the money is inadequate especially when a person has been convicted already. They noted that there is a need to do a lot of research for better representation of their clients which costs more than One Million Shillings.
On the proposal requiring the judicial officers to consider the victims while granting bail to an accused person, the lawyers objected to this saying that it contravenes the principal of a person is innocent until proven guilty.
Alaka specifically noted that when the victims are considered, they will prolong the bail application.
The top management of the Judiciary will today meet at Chobe Safari Lodge to consider the opinions of the lawyers.