Courts Deserted As Ban on Public Transport Affects Operations

The rest of the court rooms were empty and it would take a person like 30 minutes to see someone going through the storeyed building.
This was the situation at Buganda Road Court.

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A number of courts in Kampala have been deserted on the first working day following the ban on public transport.   

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni last Friday while addressing the country banned public transport as one of the measures to curb the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). However, essential workers have been allowed to to move to their places of work.

The essential workers according to Museveni includes health workers, people working in factories, health officials, agricultural and veterinary officers, media, security officers and banking officials among others.

But this also seemed to have affected most of the Judicial officers and court users since they were never declared essential.

For stance, Uganda Radio Network made a tour to some of the courts in Kampala and found that there was little or no business at all in some courts.

At Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court which has been the most active court during the lockdown for taking in new cases especially registering criminal cases for new suspects, Uganda Radio Network found no serious business going on.  

The registry was closed with only a few court clerks inside looking idle as they were busy with their private mobile phones.

The Magistrate on duty also Marion Mangeni was seen in court room number four seated in her official bench having a chat  with the Court officers and Uganda Prisons officers  without any client inside .

The Magistrate looked ready to handle files brought to her but there were no even court users by the time our reporter visited the court on Monday morning. The rest of the court rooms were empty and it would take a person like 30 minutes to see someone working  in the building.

At the High Court Commercial Division, Our reporter found the registry closed with no one inside except the security guards outside it.

But as our reporter was still moving around the building, a female clerk who never wanted to be quoted told one lawyer who had been there waiting to be attended to that "the in charge registry is not coming today and I’m not sure if she will come tomorrow because of transport issues."

But the situation was different at the Twed Tower building in Nakasero which houses the Land Division, Civil Division, Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Courts.  

Here the Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court registry was open and with people around but at the Civil Division, it was closed even with padlocks with no Judicial officer around.

Emmanuel Byaruhanga, one of the Advocates who was stranded around the court and had trekked from Nsambya to Nakasero to file a fresh case against a church he was not comfortable revealing before filing formally. He said that it was not fair for the temple of justice to be closed.    

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However, when contacted the Judiciary Spokesperson Jamson Karemani said that the Judiciary Staff were affected by transport challenges. He said that there was confusion amongst their support staff where it was difficult for them to move in the absence of public transport or clearance.  

According to him, even those with private means couldn't move because of lack of stickers. But he has revealed that the Judiciary top management was on Monday engaged in a meeting that resolved to get stickers for their staff such that business can resume normally.  

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Meanwhile, the Judiciary also issued a statement shortly after the observations and the Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo says that only the Judiciary staff who have official vehicles or motorcycles may report to work when required to do so and others may work from home.

"All staff who have private vehicles/motorcycles with movement permits stickers may report for work when required to do so. All the other staff not falling in the two categories above shall work from home; except where the office arranges means of transport for such staff",  it adds.

He has also continued to suspend all court hearings and ordered that courts will continue working on urgent matters before directing that all accused persons out on  bail should stay home for 42 days when they will be returning for mentioning of their cases.

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