Epistolary jurisdiction: a means of making courts responsive to the needs of the poor in Uganda
Namawejje, Barbra Justine
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The objective of this study to suggest the adoption of epistolary jurisdiction by the courts in Uganda to improve access to justice for persons living in poverty. Of the 37.7 million people living in Uganda, 10 million are living below the poverty line and as a result they are unable to access quality services such as transport, food, water, communication and legal services. In the previous years, the government of Uganda has tried to improve access to justice for the Ugandan population but often times these efforts exclude poor persons. A number of legislations have been enacted to enhance access to justice but these are in favor of only certain marginalised groups such as the disabled, women and children. Poor people are left out of the picture. A number of legal aid centres have also been set up but these centres operate in only 30 out of the 127 districts in the country. Additionally, legislation in Uganda has failed to recognise legal aid as a fundamental right and the government has not approved any legal aid policy. However persons living in poverty still face a number of obstacles in accessing justice and often times they are forced to give up. Most poor people actually prefer informal justice mechanisms because they have no confidence in the Ugandan courts. Using the example of India's epistolary jurisdiction, this study asserts that epistolary jurisdiction in Uganda will improve access to justice for persons living in poverty. And concludes that the courts in Uganda should adopt epistolary jurisdiction as a means of lobbying and advocating for the right of persons living in poverty to access justice.