Tanzania: Mobile Courts Introduced to Expedite Legal Services

INTRODUCTION of Mobile Court and application of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) system are among major reforms the Judiciary of Tanzania undertook this year, 2019.

The two systems helped not only ease dispensation of justice but also enabled people to get access to justice, regardless of the distance of their locations from urban centres. Our Staff W riter FAUSTINE KAPAMA reports...

During the 2018/2019 judicial calendar year, the Judiciary of Tanzania received two vehicles used as Mobile Court to conduct court sessions in a bid to speed up determination of cases and improve delivery of judicial services in Tanzania.

The main goal is to bring judicial services closer to the people and provide timely justice. In addition, the Court is aimed at reducing costs of citizens following judicial services away from the areas in which they live, since Mobile Court has the capacity of reaching different groups of people and communities.

Court officials say Mobile Courts are to be used in areas with shortages of court buildings, notably in Dar es Salaam and Mwanza regions. The Judiciary plans to expand the scope of this service by establishing other centers in the remaining regions in different phases.

On February 6, 2019, when Tanzania was marking the Law Day celebrations, signifying the official start of judicial activities for the year, President John Magufuli launched one of the Mobile Courts worth over 470m/-financed by World Bank to operate in the designed regions.

When briefing President Magufuli, Senior Judiciary Officer, Eva Nkya was quoted as saying that the mobile court will be used to receive and preside over several cases at the primary level, noting that 177,614 cases were filed at primary courts all over the country. The number was equivalent to 68 per cent of all cases.

According to Ms Nkya, who is the Director of Case Management Division, the mobile court will also be used to carry out operations against illegal fishing and delivering education to the public.

"The court that is equipped with modern equipment will start operations in Dar es Salaam and Mwanza, which have many cases due to rapid economic development and an inadequate number of primary courts," she says.

"In Dar es Salaam, services will be delivered at Bunju, Chanika, Kibamba and Buza centres while Buswelu, Buhongwa and Igoma are the centres that will be used in Mwanza," says Ms Nkya.

Operation, of the two Mobile Courts started paying off, as of reports given by judicial officials indicate that a total of 14 cases were opened and determined by a mobile court in Mwanza Region within the month of July alone.

According to Ms Nkya, while the Mobile Court in Mwanza continued with determination of cases, the other operating in Dar es Salaam went on providing stakeholders with information on the activities of the Court.

The director added that the Court admits all cases heard by Primary Courts such as marital disputes, civil litigations, inheritance and criminal matters, as well as appeals from Ward Tribunals, including cases arising from operation of various government agencies and entities.

Other services provided by Mobile Court, she says, include provision of counseling, issuing oath forms and certification of various documents, conducting mediation to the parties to litigations and providing education related to Court matters.

Another major reform recorded in the year 2019 within the judicial system is the application of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as the best way to access information and would help the Judiciary in early dispensation of justice.

The Judiciary has constructed modern structures that support the use of ICT in order to provide timely and accessible justice for all. Moreover, the Judiciary of Tanzania has established a system for registration and administration of cases known as Judiciary Statistical Dashboard System (JSDS).

Such system application is used to keep records and manage cases both civil and criminal. Recent records indicate that over 55,677 cases have been register under the system, where 24,317 are civil and 31,3 60 criminal cases.

The Judiciary Statistical Dashboard System also allows Judiciary stakeholders to access the system and register their cases. The system also can be used to send some information to the citizens concerning their cases through SMS in mobile phones.

It is also connected to the government e-payment gateway-GePG system to allow citizen to pay various court fees through M-pesa, Tigopesa, Airtel Money, among other means. ICT usage in the Judiciary helps to reduce cost and save time for the citizen.

Through ICT, people will get more time of doing economic activities rather than using most of their time in Court. Information such as Judgments and Proceedings can be easily and timely accessed. The use of ICT can also increase transparency and reduce corruption within the judiciary.

Chief Justice (CJ) Prof. Ibrahim Juma is quoted as saying that a well-functioning legal and judicial system is essential, not only as an end in itself, but also as a means of facilitating achievement of other development objectives.

When opening an Induction Programme for new Judges of the High Court towards the end of the year, the CJ pointed out that access to effective legal rights and justice are a necessity for everyone, including the poor who live in squatter urban settlements and the people, who live in far off rural areas.

"As new Judges, you must be a solution to the challenges facing access to justice, but not a problem to effectiveness of citizens' legal right to access justice," the Head of Judiciary told the new judges.

He says that judges must feel, work and live alongside the impact breathtaking technological innovation and development which is affecting legal systems, laws and dispensation of justice.

According to him, judges has to dispense justice in the twenty-first century, an age described as "...of breakneck technological change that will thrust many difficult technical and scientific issues on judges, for which few of them are prepared."

He invites them to be part of the Judicial Statistical Dashboard System (JSDS2), launched on February 6, 2019 by President Magufuli during the Law Day, as the Judiciary of Tanzania was leveraging technology to improve court efficiency, integrity, quality and access to citizen-centric justice services.

The CJ says JSDS2 enables cases to be filed electronically and send case-related information to parties through text-messages and to accommodate e-payments of court fees. Through this online platform, leaders in the Judiciary will follow-up on performance electronically.

For the Judiciary of Tanzania, JSDS2 is a crucial working tool whereby the status and trend of cases assigned to each one of judges and magistrates will be traced.

"As part of free citizens right to free access to legal information, all judgments will immediately upon delivery, be uploaded into Tanzania Legal Information Institute (TANZLII) section of the Judiciary website. Thus, judgments will be freely available to all," Prof. Juma says.

He says that leveraging of technology through JSDS2 and TANZLII will enable judicial leaders to keep up with officials' judicial activities and results of their judicial work and ultimately know what one should do, but he or she is not doing.

The CJ mentions another advantage of JSDS2 is to enable the following -up on assigned cases, followup on progress these cases make, while the leaders and litigants will at any time and moment, know cases' status (in terms of age in court, whether decided, or its designated period of pendency has elapsed).

Judiciary leadership, according to him, would also access such individual case information as filing dates, parties, exchequer receipt (ERV), case numbers, Advocates involved and presiding Judge or magistrate, among others.

"JSDS2 generates reports, for example, a list of all decided cases report for each Court station or per each Judge or Magistrate and Weekly Cause List. I would like to invite you to this judicial life of transparency, efficiency and under constant follow-ups and evaluations of performance," he says.

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