The Local Governments Act gives the Village executive committee the mandate to maintain law, order and security.
The area / Village Local Chairperson presides over and is the chairperson of the Village Court. The Chairperson receives claims or complaints, forwards the claims received to the secretary for recording and fixes hearing dates for cases. In absence of the chairperson, the vice chairperson shall preside over the sittings at the village Court. Apart from the Chairperson, other members of the Village Court include 4 (Four) members, one executive member of council who is the Vice chairperson and a secretary who is not a member of the council but elected.
Where does a Village / LC1 Court sit?
The LC1 chairperson appoints a place where Court will sit, however, the place appointed by the chairperson must be within the area jurisdiction. The Court sitting is between 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The village Court in all instances conducts the hearings in public, except in cases involving children.
What language is used during proceedings in a Village Court?
The language used and the record of proceedings is that which is widely spoken in an area. For example; Luganda, Dhopadhola, Lugbara, Lhukonzo, Ateso, Runyoro, Rukiga. Each of these languages is used depending on which one is majorly used in that area. However, an interpreter is provided in case any party to the proceedings does not understand the language used. But in all cases the Village Court shall decide on which language is to be used during the proceedings.
Note: The record of proceedings recorded in a local language is translated to English by the secretary of the Village Court. This is done because the official language of Court is English.
What type of civil cases are handled in a Village Court (Legal Jurisdiction)?
The Local Council Courts Act, 2006 and the Regulations give LC1 / Village Courts the mandate to handle ONLY the following civil cases whose subject matter does not exceed 100 currency points which is equivalent to UGX 2,000,000 (Two million shillings).
- Assault or assault and battery.
- Conversion – This constitutes a legally wrongful act in which the offender takes another’s property without their permission).
- Damage to property
Contrary to the subject matter limitation above, the Village Court is mandated to handle the following disputes regardless of their subject matter value:
- Disputes in respect of land held under customary tenure.
- Disputes relating to the identity of the customary heir.
- Disputes concerning marriage, marital status, separation, divorce or the parentage of children;
- Cases of infringement of bye-laws.
How to report / institute a case before the Village Court?
For one to report a case to the village Court, one needs to make a complaint or claim to the LC1 chairperson. The claim can be made in writing or orally.
All written claims made to the LC1 chairperson should be signed/ thumb printed by the person reporting the case. In case the complaint is made orally, the claims shall be reduced in writing, read back to the person making the complaint and signed/ thumb printed by one reporting the case.
The claim shall include;
- The name, age, address of the complainant and the witnesses.
- The nature of claim, and the facts constituting the claim.
- The monetary value of the claim (if applicable).
- The relief sought and any other information that is considered necessary to the claim.
Is there any fee that is payable at or before instituting a claim in the Village Court?
Yes, fees range from UGX 500 (five hundred Shillings) to UGX 4,000 (four thousand Shillings).
Does one need a lawyer to report or defend a case in a Village Court?
One does not need a lawyer to report or defend a case in a Village Court. However, a Lawyer is required in cases where one of the parties is below the age of 18 (Eighteen) years and cases which involve breach/ failing to observe a law that is passed by the Village Council (bye-law).
Note: The hearing of cases in a Village Court is informal and guidance is given to the parties.
Can a Village Court reject / refuse to register some claims?
Yes, some claims are rejected by the Village court for the following reasons;
- If the claim or complaint does not have merit/ value, a claim that intends to annoy another person, and if the complaint is unjustified.
- When the Village court has no jurisdiction to handle the case, whether legal or territorial.
- If the same claim or complaint is pending before another court.
What follows after instituting or reporting a case?
When a claim has been reported and registered:
- The claim is reported.
- The claim is reduced into writing if made orally, read back and signed or thumb printed by the complainant.
- The claim is registered by the secretary.
- The LC1 chairperson or the vice chairperson then causes the notice of claim, summons and hearing notices to be served on the person (s) complained against requiring them to appear in the village Court on the date specified in the hearing notices.
- The chairperson may cause witness summons to be served upon any witness that has been mentioned in the claim.
- The service of the above documents shall be done on the person or by leaving a duplicate copy of the same with an adult member of the family of the complainant or the person complained against.
What procedure is followed by the village Court during proceedings/ hearing of cases?
- The complainant or his or her representative and any other persons wishing to make representations to the court shall appear in person or by a representative including children, persons with disabilities and sick persons.
- The complainant or claimant shall state his or her case first and then be questioned on any aspect of it to give further information.
- This is followed by the evidence of the complainant’s witnesses.
- The defendant is then tasked to state his or her defence in the matter and then be questioned on any aspect of it to give further information, followed by the evidence of his or her witnesses.
- The Court shall grant more time to the parties, or to any of them and may from time to time request.
- The Court may if applicable visit the place in which a dispute arose.
Note: During the Court proceedings, any member of the Village Court who has an interest in the case excludes him/herself from the proceedings
What happens if one cannot appear upon being served with summons?
Where a party summoned is unable to appear in a Village Court due to mental sickness or physical incapacity, the local council court may, on being satisfied that a person has been nominated by that person or is in charge of that person or his or her property, allow that person to represent him the party in a Village Court.
When and how is judgment delivered by the Village Court?
- The Regulations task the Village Courts to hear cases expeditiously and the judgment to be delivered within 5 (five) days from the date of completion of the hearing.
- The judgment shall contain the name of the Court, the name of the parties, the serial number of the case, particulars of the claim, the summary of evidence, the decision of Court and the reasons together with the relief granted.
- The decision or judgment of Court is reached by agreement of the members of the executive or by majority of votes.
- After delivery of judgment, the Village Court shall inform the parties of their right to appeal.
What are some of the remedies / reliefs/ orders that can be passed by the Village Court?
- Reconciliation. (A process of bringing two parties into harmony who would have otherwise been unable to settle their differences).
- Compensation. (The Village Court orders the guilty party to pay the claimant property or cash which is equal to the complainant’s loss)
- Restitution. (The guilty party is ordered to return the property the claimant is entitled to)
- Costs. (Payment of an amount that the complainant has spent in registering the claim, attending Court and any other money spent to ensure that the case is heard)
- Attachment and sale; and
- In the case of infringement of a by-law, impose a fine, community service or any other penalty authorized by that by-law or ordinance.
What happens if one is dissatisfied with the Judgment of the Village Court?
- Any one dissatisfied with the decision of the village Court shall appeal to a Parish Court.
- An appeal shall lie from the Village Court to the parish Court within 14 (fourteen) days from the date of delivering the Judgment.