Monday, September 28, 2020

Backlog of cases continues to torment the judiciary

The Chief Justice Terence Rannowane has lamented on the backlog of cases that are continuing to retard the dispensation of justice. Giving a key note address during the Judicial Stakeholder’s Conference held in Francistown on Monday he said they are concerned by the existence of a huge backlog of pending criminal and civil cases particularly at the Magistrate Courts.

“Delays in any system frustrates and erodes public confidence. In the case of the courts it impacts on the ease of doing business and impedes government endeavors of making this country a prime choice for investors and the resultant job creation,” he said.

The Chief Justice revealed that pending cases include those that are ripe for prosecution and those in which investigations are still on-going. He however made it clear that the duty of the courts is to try cases and not investigate them. He said the courts should not be blamed for the delays relating to pending cases which are still under investigations.

“As stakeholders we need to have a common understanding of what constitutes backlog. This conference must ensure that stakeholders take accountability for the delays at different stages of the cases in the value chain. Although what matters is the whole, it must be noted that the whole is constituted by different parts and not components,” he said.

On what they have done as the judiciary to address the accumulation of backlog of cases, Rannowane said as a short term measure they initiated the appointment of acting Judges to deal with the “quick win cases. He said diaries of the substantive Judges are currently clogged. He said the same dispensation will be extended to the Magistracy. He also said they are reviewing the efficiency of the Special Courts such as the Small Claims, Stock Theft, Traffic and Family Courts.

“As we might know for a long time now, the High Court has been operating with far fewer Judges than the establishment allows, with the result that there was simply a disproportionate workload which automatically translated into a backlog. I am happy to report that we have recently recruited eight Judges, four of whom have already started work whilst the remainder is expected to start next year. We expect that that his positive development will help greatly to reduce the backlog,” said the Chief Justice.

He explained that increasing and enhancing physical access to court services by for instance establishing a High Court Division in  Maun will accelerate the disposal of cases due to reduced traveling times and related logistics translating into more time dedicated to court sittings. Rannowane revealed that their Combined Rules Committee is also dealing with the amendment of Rules to usher in Court Annexed Mediation and E-Filling to further improve and expedite the disposal of justice.

“Once the rules are enacted, we expect to operationalize the program next year. Furthermore we are on the verge of rolling out Real Time Reporting to designated courts to address the issue of backlog in the transcription of proceedings and the hearing of appeals. These reforms shall be ushered in after proper consideration with all stakeholders,” he.

He however said the initiatives he outlined largely depend on the availability of resources. He also said the other most important necessity is for them as the Administration of Justice to change their work ethic and to undergo mindset change.

The two day Conference was held under the theme “Towards realization of world class judiciary in partnership with stakeholder.”

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