The opposition Green Party has expressed concern with the small number of judges serving on the Constitutional Court Bench.
In a statement Green Party President Peter Sinkamba said it is worrying that a small number of judges are still serving on the bench long after the establishment of the Constitutional Court.
He noted that the current state of affairs at the ConCourt may render it ineffective as it may be overburdened with cases.
“The constitution establishes a Constitutional Court which consists of the President of the Constitutional Court, the Deputy President of the Constitutional Court, and eleven other judges or a higher number of judges.
“It is worrying that almost one year on, the number of Judges that are serving on this bench is less than half the constitutional requirement. This state of affairs will, or may already have rendered this critical court to be extremely ineffective, as it is or may be overburdened with cases.”
He said having a small number of judges at the ConCourt leads to justice being delayed hence defeating the principle espoused by the Constitution which is “justice delayed is justice denied.”
“One of the key principals established by the Constitution of Zambia in Article 118(2), which guide judicial authority for our courts, to protect and promote the values and principles of the Constitution, is that justice must not be delayed. From the small number of Judges on this bench, it is very clear that this principle espoused by the Constitution may or is already not being complied with on account of the manpower level of Judges serving on the bench. This defeats the whole purpose of having the principle in the Constitution.
“From the appointments made earlier for the current bench, we appreciate the fact that the President may be challenged to find competent manpower from the pool of lawyers available in the country to serves on this bench. Article 141(1) of the Constitution requires that only lawyers that have served for at least fifteen years and has specialised training or experience in human rights or constitutional law should serves on the bench of the Constitutional Court. Apparently, the President appears to have had a challenge to find lawyers with such qualifications from the pool of lawyers in the country,” he said.
He further urged President Lungu to extend the catchment for ConCourt judges to cover the Commonwealth.
“The Green Party supports the continued development and strengthening of international human rights standards in Zambia. Therefore, to promote accountability and prompt resolution of constitutional cases, and in view of this challenge confronting President Lungu, we urge him to extend the catchment for Constitutional Court Judges to cover the Commonwealth, especially the United Kingdom and India. He is not restricted to do so by the Constitution. This is a very necessary measure to prevent abuses of human rights, and other constitutional provisions that are central to efforts to create a more peaceful and just Zambia.
“In any case, appointment of neutral Judges from other parts of the Commonwealth to fill up the vacancies on this bench at the moment is most rational measure to take, as an interim measure for five years, in view of the disgusting, nauseating and extremely embarrassing tribal, regional, and partisan divide that has rocked country following the August 11 elections.”