Tanzania: Judiciary Sets Guidelines for Election Petitions

THE Judiciary of Tanzania has prepared new rules, guidelines and procedures to assist judges and magistrates to expedite the hearing of election petitions that might be filed following the October 28th 2020 General Election.

According to a statement issued by the Judiciary's Information and Communication Directorate, the rules, guidelines and procedures have already been translated into Kiswahili language, to enable the parties to understand them in a simple language, when applying them in seeking their rights before different courts.

In addition, the regulations have been translated through Government Notice No. 934 and 935 dated October 23, 2020, with the aim of ensuring fairness for all people and removing barriers to access to justice.

Opening the National Committee for Acceleration of Criminal Cases held in Dar es Salaam recently, the Chief Registrar of Judiciary of Tanzania, Mr Wilbert Chuma, said that such regulations are those of the General Election and Local Government Elections, both for 2020.

Mr Chuma explained that the Judiciary has amended and prepared the new rules, regulations, guidelines and procedures for the purpose of expediting the hearing of election-related matters. He pointed out that the Judiciary plans to continue translating other regulations into Kiswahili as much as possible.

Some of these rules are those of the Court of Appeal with the aim of simplifying procedures in the Court of Appeal and the Rules of Corruption and Economic Crimes Division (Procedure Rules, 2016. GN No. 267/2016), in order to establish a proper procedure for dealing with suspects of such offences.

Ms Chuma cited other rules that would be translated to include the Rules of Judicial Brokers and Process Server and Regulations for the submission of Court documents via electronic system. Commenting on cases, he revealed that as of October 2020, a total of 14,715 cases were filed through online.

"With these successes, I would like to take this opportunity to call upon criminal justice stakeholders to support these efforts for everyone to fulfill his responsibilities to reduce and eradicate corruption loopholes through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)," he stressed.

Mr Chuma pointed out further that the Judiciary intends to eliminate the use of papers and strengthen the use of electronic systems known as "E-Filing Digitised and Access to Justice Information Centre." According to him, they have appointed the Kigamboni District Court to establish a system of handling a case from the registration stage, hearing to the final determination by using the ICT system.

The service, he said, was launched in November 2020 and the system would be adopted in other courts. He explained that the purpose of the Judiciary is to eliminate the system of using paperwork and to enter into the system of using ICT in all business operations and other activities of such third arm of the state.

In terms of accumulation of cases, Mr Chuma explained that, statistics confirm that among other cases, there are 39 drug related cases in the High Court which are considered as backlog. He said the report of the cases from January to October, 2020, there were a total of 3,015 cases pending on part of Resident Magistrate's Courts, of which 1178 cases related to economic crime and murder.

Such cases, he said, are triable by the High Court only, thus could not be entertained by lower courts. The Chief Registrar also stated that there are 3,632 cases in the District Courts and out of such cases, 1751 related to economic crimes and murder, which also the court lacked jurisdiction to hear them.

"These cases are at various stages, including incomplete investigations, so we must work together to set strategies to dispose them off," Mr Chuma stressed.

However, he called upon the Court's stakeholders to be accountable to avoid blames that are often directed at the Judiciary. He added that stakeholders have a responsibility to strengthen the justice system and solve existing challenges to increase trust in the people.

Speaking on behalf of the Director of Criminal Investigation, Deputy Commissioner of Police Salehe Ambika, said the Police Traffic Department was moving fast in coordinating its activities through ICT, as currently all traffic offences are being dealt with in that way before even suspects taken to court.

He pointed out that even criminal cases received at police stations are currently being dealt with through the ICT system known as the "Case Management System" to help tracking information of relevant file and know steps taken in order to provide accurate operational and auditing information.

Equally, Mr Ambike appealed to all institutions dealing with criminal justice issues to be at the forefront of educating the public on various issues on their rights in order to eliminate harassment so that stakeholders do not continue providing blames against them.

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