The Judiciary is the third arm of Government, under the doctrine of separation of powers. The other two are the Legislature, which makes the law and the Executive, which enforces the law.
The Judiciary is constitutionally supposed to:
- Administer justice through resolving disputes between citizens and between the State and citizens;
- Interpret the Constitution and the laws of Uganda; promote the rule of law and to contribute to the maintenance of order in society;
- Protect human rights of individuals and groups;
- Initiate, develop and implement training programmes for the development of the Judiciary staff;
- Contribute to the enforcement of law and order;
- Enroll and license Advocates;
- License and discipline Court Brokers;
- Keep custody of laws enacted as well as disseminate legal literature;
- Receive Government revenue accruing from courts; and
- Introduce modalities for out of court dispute resolution mechanisms to reduce the burden of cases on the courts.
This places the Judiciary at the heart of the system of justice, to settle disputes between individuals and or organizations and to conduct trials when violations of law are presented. Accordingly article 126(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda spells out the following five principles to be followed in the administration of justice namely:
- Justice shall be done to all irrespective of their social or economic status;
- Justice shall not be delayed;
- Adequate compensation shall be awarded to victims of wrong;
- Reconciliation between parties shall be promoted; and
- Substantive justice shall be administered without undue regard to technicalities.
Under the doctrine of separation of powers, Parliament is the arm of Government, which makes laws to be implemented by the Judiciary. In that regard, Parliament determines the establishments of courts subordinate to the High Court and may determine to increase the number of judges and justices to sit in the Supreme, Appeal/Constitutional, and High Court above the constitutionally defined minimums.
Parliament is also entrusted to make provisions for the jurisdiction and procedures of those courts. In addition, Parliament makes laws providing for the structures, procedures and functions of the Judiciary. Aware that the Judiciary is independent and not controlled by any person or authority, Parliament can only make provisions for the jurisdiction and procedure of courts and decide on the number of judges.
The Uganda Judiciary has undergone tremendous changes since the turn of the last century to the present time. In that regard, following the enactment of the 1995 Constitution, the Judiciary structure has been redefined to consist of the following courts:
- Supreme Court;
- Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court;
- High Court;
- Chief Magistrates Courts;
- Grade I Magistrate’s Courts;
- Grade II Magistrate’s Courts;
- The Local Council Courts;
- Family and Children Courts and Land.
The Judiciary is faced with many challenges brought about by social, economic, environmental, political, technological and global changes in addition to those emanating from the 1995 Constitution changes. To meet these challenges the Judiciary has redefined its mission statement and core values and articulated a new vision on which the future trajectory of the organization is based. The Uganda Judiciary’s mission statement for the period 2006/7-2010/11 is: To dispense justice to all people in Uganda, through timely adjudication of disputes without discrimination.