PRESIDENT Jakaya Kikwete recently led judges, magistrates, lawyers and other invited guests to mark the Law Day, an annual event marked countrywide to officiate the start of functions of the Judiciary in the country.
At the occasion, the president urged the judiciary to adhere to professional ethics while performing their duties. Our Staff Writer FAUSTINE KAPAMA, who attended the session reports...
IT was at around 10.15 am when the president touched the celebration grounds at the High Court's premise to grace the occasion as guest of honour. Chief Justice (CJ) Chande Othman, the head of the Judiciary in Tanzania, and his cochief of another pillar of the State, Speaker of National Assembly Anne Makinda, were there to receive him. After the mass had joined the police brass band to sing the national anthem, religious leaders from Roman Catholic, Christian Council, Muslims and Hindu Community took the floor to pray to God so that he could bless the occasion.
Thereafter, Deputy Attorney General (AG) George Masaju took the stage as the first speaker to address the attendees. He was followed by the President of the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), Francis Stolla, and later the CJ, the host of the event and President Kikwete concluded, as per protocol. In his address on the Law Day held under a theme, "Rule of Law, its importance and improvement in the country," the president stressed four critical issues, including adherence to professional ethics, delay in disposal of case, budgetary allocation to the judiciary and importance of rule of law in the society.
On professional ethics to judiciary officials, President Kikwete urged them to refrain from engaging in corrupt practices in order to restore confidence of the people, as there were fears that justice could not be obtained without being bought. The president said he wishes to see those claims were not true. However, he pointed out that the complaints of the people on the matter were on increase.
He, therefore, called upon judiciary officers to take due consideration on the issue. He instructed that appropriate measures be taken to remedy the situation. Regarding cases, President Kikwete also pointed out that delay of disposal of cases was another area of which complaints from the people were increasing. According to him, he is aware of several factors that have been contributing on the delay. These include delay in completion of investigations, conduct of the cases and tactics from lawyers.
However, the president advised that the judiciary should sit together with other stakeholders to find ways of ironing out such defects so that cases are disposed of timely. The people, he said, were not happy on regular adjournments and their interests were to see justice is done. On inadequate budgetary allocation to the judiciary, President Kikwete pointed out that such aspect was critical to all departments and ministries caused by small government's revenue collection.
For example, he said, total amount that was needed for the government's expenditure was 19tr/- and 3bn/-, but the amount collected from revenue was 15tr/- only. According to him, such position was an indication that the government could not satisfy all the requirements. However, the president pledged the government's support and to empower the judiciary by elevating its budgetary allocation.
President Kikwete said he had instructed the Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs and his assistants to find possible ways of ring fencing the judiciary budget. He said the government would make sure that the budget that would be approved by the Parliament reaches the judiciary timely. The president stressed on obedience to the rule of law, calling on the people to always learn how to use legal institutions such as courts to secure their rights and stop taking law into their own hand.
But he cautioned that efficiency in delivery of justice depended on the integrity of the judicial staff, issuance of judgment copies on time and speeding up the hearing of cases. He also pointed out that the rule of law was all about the three pillars of the state, Executive, Parliament and Judiciary, to perform their respective functions independently without one interfering another.
Chief Justice Chande Othman said the rule of law concept was given a new push by one Albert Venn Dicey in 1885 in his book titled, "Introduction to the Law of the Constitution", insisting, among others, that one should not be punished unless he has gone against the law and proved guilty in court. But Justice Othman was critical on the alarming trend of some people who call themselves angry mob. These people, he said, have been behaving in a manner that goes against the whole concept of rule of law.
For example, he said, between 2000 and 2004 about 1,249 people were lynched, while a study by Legal and Human Rights Centre established last year that about 673 people were killed under similar arrangements. He said such behaviour was criminal and defeated the whole concept of rule of law. The CJ, therefore, discouraged such unbecoming behaviour of taking law into their own hands, purportedly acting on losing confidence on decision making bodies, with judiciary and the police, among them.
On the challenge regarding delay of disposal of pending cases, Justice Othman said it was better for the matter to be looked on its reality. For example, he said, if one was to estimate that one murder case could be heard for three days and takes that a judge deal with cases for all 360 days of the year, without having any leave, this would imply that he or she would hear 120 cases only. With those estimates which do not reflect the actual reality, the CJ concluded that there were other cases that would not be touched at all within the year.
But he assured the public that currently the Judiciary was conducting a stock taking exercise of cases in all courts and start disposing long pending ones with a focus that the longest be of two years. He said the Judiciary was also focusing to improve working tools, increase the workforce and putting in place conducive working environments. The CJ revealed that plans were underway to have three sub-registries in Dar es Salaam at Ilala, Temeke and Kinondoni districts.
Other plans, he said, was to make sure each region has a High Court building to eradicate the centralized system and improve access to justice for the people. Currently regions like Coast, Morogoro, Lindi, Shinyanga, Kigoma, Mara, Singida and Manyara and also the new regions of Geita, Katavi, Simiyu, and Njombe have no High Court buildings. President of the Tanganyika Law Society Francis Stolla challenged, among others, the Parliament to enact laws that provide equal justice to all.
He cited Section 225 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which empowers court to discharge accused on some offences in case the prosecution fails to complete investigations within 60 days. He said the provision was in favour of the republic as it allows the prosecution to rearrest such accused and charge him with similar offences and that the Parliament provided any limitation for which the prosecution could behave in such manner.
This, he claimed, defeats the presumption that all people are equal before the law. He also pointed out that the court system which is free and ethical is one of the crucial pillars in promoting the rule of law in any society. He added that the media, private sector, religious and political affiliations were important actors who needed to be handled with care as they highly affect judicial freedom.
He said equality of all people before the law is an important pillar for the rule of law, adding that the objective of the Tanganyika Law Society is to reach all the people, more so the low income people with free legal aid services funded by the government. The Deputy Attorney General, George Masaju, said the dependence of the judiciary as enshrined under Article 107B of the Constitution was key element of rule of law.
According to him, running the government through constitutionalism could only be in place if a country has a judiciary which is independent. Mr Masaju said the judiciary becomes independent where it gives its decisions without any pressure from the other side and when the society has suitable system of resolving conflicts, like in Tanzania where such conflicts could be resolved through court process.
The Deputy Attorney General warned that peace and unity could be at stake if the society would refrain from resolving their differences through the available rule and procedure in the country. He said according to Article 13 of the Constitution, all people are equal before the law, thus it is the responsibility of the court to grant justice to the people regardless of their social status, economic backgrounds, religious differences, gender or political affiliations. However he added that the Article 26 of the Constitution states that it is the responsibility of all people to obey the parent law and called upon the government to ensure that all people obey the laws.