The Proposed Court fees will further Deny Ugandans access to Justice -Micheal Aboneka

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Lawyer and Human Rights Activist Michael Aboneka; Photo Courtesy

Michael Aboneka

As we are still grappling with access to services, especially legal services and justice, there is a proposal for increase in court fees and one wonders what the exact motive is when we are just in the depth of discussions concerning the legal aid bill and most importantly a legal aid fund to ensure every Ugandan can access justice.

Over 8 million Ugandans live below the poverty line (they cannot afford UGX 3,500 a day), a bad economic situation which has further been exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Before COVID-19, it was also still difficult to access justice due to several challenges but the most important being the costs involved.

The Judiciary is one of the most crucial arm of government and without it, the country can be in a mess! It is therefore sad that there is currently a proposal to increase court fees and this will edge out the vulnerable who already cannot afford the current fees.

Furthermore, this has an implication on the rise in cost of legal fees and costs at the end of trial; many will simply keep away for example those who shape our jurisprudence through public interest litigation now will have to foot huge bills in filing and maintaining petitions. We need to be working towards having justice accessible to all and the Government and its agencies must be seen to work towards this goal and not merely focusing on collecting revenue as much as they can, for it is milking an unfed cow.

The role of the state is to facilitate creation of wealth for its citizens, protect them and their wealth too. As for citizens, we offer the government two things; the votes/mandate, and taxes and what we expect in return is effective and adequate services.

Ugandans already pay taxes and therefore free or subsidized services in return are in order! I hope, that these fees will be stayed and allow more in-depth discussions on issues affecting access to justice such as inadequate human resource which result into backlog, systemic issues such as separating the constitutional Court from the Court of Appeal in order to have speedy justice administered in these courts, access to internet and literacy to facilitate the e-court filing and management system for all Ugandans.

Let us focus more energies on breaking the existing barriers to access justice and if the motive for the fees is raising revenue, this is in bad taste as the Government should not always be in the business of making money out of the services it ought to provide for free in the first place.

The author is a practicing advocate, a Human Rights activist and partner at Thomas & Michael Advocates.
Email:[email protected]

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