Lawmakers on Monday put on spot different officials from the judiciary over cases of injustice that continue to come up in the judicial sector.
Different reports have cited cases of unfair adjudication of cases by courts, which has led to many going all the way to the Office of the Ombudsman to seek redress.
Officials from the judiciary had appeared before the parliamentary committee on political and gender affairs to answer queries on cases of injustice as the latter scrutinised the draft law determining organisation and functioning of judicial organs.
Analysing the draft legislation, lawmakers said it does not make sense for a case to come from lower court to the Supreme Court and litigants still claim injustice, with others even going beyond all these structures to petition the Ombudsman.
During the session, the committee members told officials from the judiciary that such loopholes should be closed to ensure that litigants get fair hearing at the lowest stage possible.
Alfred Karemera Rwasa, the chairperson of the committee, asked officials from Supreme Court and Justice ministry the measures in place to avoid piling of such injustice cases.
“Cases of injustice, from different reports, including that by the Ombudsman, are on the rise, when you scrutinise, you find many have come all the way from primary courts to Supreme Court until the Office of the Ombudsman. Are we missing something that can be fixed in the law?” he queried.
The State Minister for Constitutional Affairs, Evode Uwizeyimana, and the Inspector General of Courts at the Supreme Court, Regis Rukundakuvuga attended the session.
“How do you assess the adjudicated cases to make sure they were fairly disposed of? Is it by sample or you review every case?” asked Damien Nyabyenda, another member of the committee.
According to the latest Ombudsman’s report, at least 660 cases of injustice were brought to that office during the reporting year (2015-16) and 54.3 per cent of these were addressed by the Ombudsman.
Others were either sent back to the courts or are still under investigation.
While lawmakers argued that many cases go to the courts only to leave appellants unsatisfied with the outcome, Rukundakuvuga explained that his office has been taking time to assess some of the adjudicated cases, although he admitted more work needs to be done.
“Of the cases which were reported to the Ombudsman, after our inspection, we realised that 81 of them were indeed unjustly adjudicated and they are going to be sent back for retrial.
“However, we are concerned over the growing trend amongst members of the public who deliberately choose not to agree or come to terms with decisions taken by courts.”
Rukundakuvuga argued that such mentality has been a major reason they have a backlog of cases at different levels of courts, adding that this is aggravated by the fact that each case filed has to be lined up for trial, with no system of sieving them.
“Some come to our offices and tell us about their suspicions of injustice during trial, but the only thing we can do is to intervene on matters of procedure but not the content of the case,” he explained.
Lawmakers resolved to probe the issue further by engaging staff at the Office of the Ombudsman and the Supreme Court in the ongoing discussions about amendment of laws in the Judiciary sector.
The draft law seeks to reorganise the Judiciary into two main categories, for harmonisation and efficiency purposes.
If the bill is enacted into law, the High Council of the Judiciary will be considered as the supreme organ governing the Judiciary, while the other category will comprise ordinary and specialised courts.