Kabarole. Justice David Batema, the resident judge Fort Portal High Court, has warned money lenders in Rwenzori sub-region to stop using courts as a way of recovering money from civil debtors.
Speaking to journalists on Monday, Justice Batema said civil debtors are not criminals.
“As the saying goes, ‘a promise is a debt,’ if it is a debt, it’s not a crime. You should not imprison people over debts,” said JusticeBatema.
He aised money lenders to go to court and apply for fore closure, indicating the person who took the loan and what was offered as security.
He said the application of selling security collateral should then be made, the property sold and money recovered.
“Don’t take the person to court as a first resort. The colonial law we follow allows court to imprison somebody but as a last resort. There should be a procedure of calling the parties so that they can renegotiate the payment schedule,” he aised.
Justice Batema said much as someone might have said that he can pay at a particular time, that person might face some difficulties, and there has to be negotiations and an agreement to pay at a later date with some more interest.
“If an agreement is not reached, then the procedure of foreclosure should be followed. “When you are recovering a loan of Shs1m, you do not need to sell a house of Shs36m,” said the judge.
He added that the Judiciary is facing a problem, especially in the lower courts, that allow money lenders and banks to arrest civil debtors as a first resort.
The resident judge said in civilised countries, the laws have abolished imprisonment of civil debtors.
“You cannot work for money in prison and also you can’t pay a loan while in prison. It’s better that somebody is kept outside prison and given alternatives to recover the loan.
Justice Batema said if Parliament is reluctant to reform this law, then courts should throw it out as unconstitutional or as a violation of human rights.