Judges should take arbitration more seriously if the recently launched campaign to clear the biting case backlog is to be realised, Commercial Court Judge David Wangutusi has said.
Justice Wangutusi said there are some lawyers and judges who adjourn hearings/arbitrations based on flimsy reasons and that such should not be entertained by the Judiciary management.
The judge, was speaking on Friday during the first ever conference on arbitration organised by International Chamber of Commerce, DLA Piper Africa, and the law firm Sebalu & Lule Advocates.
Commercial arbitration is a means of settling disputes by referring them to a neutral person, an arbitrator, selected by the parties for a decision based on the evidence and arguments presented to the arbitration tribunal.
The parties agree in advance that the decision will be accepted as final and binding.
“We recommend that once we begin arbitration, it should be a day-to-day hearing and take a short time as possible to hear the matter. Adjournments should only be entertained with sufficient cause but here we adjourn all the time,” Justice Wangutusi said.
He added: “Even us judges, some of us have been branded adjourning judges. People will attract themselves to arbitration if the adjournment is done on sufficient cause like death, things like ‘my wife is in the hospital on C-section’, but clumsy reasons like you have gone home to brew alcohol for funeral rites should not be entertained.”
The judge also urged litigants to embrace arbitration, especially those battling commercial cases, saying the Judiciary has a limited budget and yet the backlog is huge.
He further warned the arbitrators not to take sides during arbitration.
Justice Wangutusi said: “Uganda had last December heard 114,000 cases against a group of about 200 judicial officers. A month ago when we checked, there were 150,000 cases, many of them are civil matters, including commercial matters.”
Mr Barnabas Tumusingize, a partner with Sebalu & Lule Advocates, during plenary session, faulted some judicial officers for bungling arbitration cases. He called upon them to handle arbitration dutifully.
Patson Arinaitwe, a lawyer from Sebalu & Lule in his presentation, advised that a neutral language should be found in cases were arbitration is to be done in a foreign country.
He advised that if no common language can be found, then the parties involved should budget for costs to hire someone to do the translation.