Judge President of the Court of Appeal, Ian Kirby has said that his court will not comment on press remarks over judgements that it delivers. Kirby who is associated with President Ian Khama’s family said this when opening the January session of the Court of Appeal on Friday.
He said 2013 was a busy year for his court with a number of important cases being decided, some of which have attracted press comment. “It is the policy of this court and its Justices not to comment on its judgments or to react to the comments of others, of whatever nature.
Informed comment and public debate is always welcome, however, and one of the hallmarks of an independent judiciary is that court proceedings are open to full public scrutiny.” Kirby assured a fully packed court composing mostly of litigants that the decisions made by the court were not taken lightly.
He said each case is being debated among the panel of justices presiding after perusing the record and hearing argument. He said after that process, that is when a decision is reached with each member free to dissent or concur. Kirby said courts in Botswana are independent and impartial and will continue to perform its duties without fear of favour.
Kirby’s comments come after a heated public debate over the independent of the Court of Appeal. There are many especially within the legal fraternity who are of the view that the Court of Appeal is ‘Executive minded.’ Some have even said that litigating against government was a waste of time even in a situation where the High Court rules against government as the decision will be overturned at appeal. Public sector unions have also condemned many decisions of the court saying it was not independent.
In fact, the unions have publicly criticized Kirby saying his oscillation between the post of Attorney General and High Court judge has rendered him incapable of being independent. Meanwhile, Kirby has also announced that the court has issued new rules which will allow for voluntary mediation before a case can be heard at appeal. He said there will be a single judge who will hear the parties confidentially in an effort to try to resolve the matter amicably.
He said if the mediation fails, then the matter will be heard in a properly constituted court.