Kitwe High Court Judge Abba Patel, State Counsel(SC), says the judiciary must be distanced from political activities as the country heads towards the 2021 general elections.
Speaking after the ceremonial opening of the criminal sessions at the Kitwe High Court today, Justice Patel said the Judiciary is a non-partisan institution and should be distanced from political activities.
“The judiciary is a non-partisan institution which is independent of government and is only subject to the Constitution of the country,” she said.
Justice Patel said that as the country heads towards campaigns, there is need to promote a culture of respect for each other’s opinions in line with good governance tenets.
And Justice Patel is concerned with the apparent increase in domestic cases including Gender Based Violence (GBV) against women and girls.
She said while there is a general reduction in the number of both civil and criminal cases before the courts, domestic disputes and GBV cases such as defilement and rape seem to be on the upswing.
“The rising cases of crime against women and young girls is a source of concern in a Christian nation. We need to protect the girl child from her brother, father, uncle and even grandfather,” Justice Patel said.
She said community leaders, church elders and local leaders must all join hands in helping to overcome the rising cases of crimes against women.
She said fighting crime should not be left to the judiciary and the police alone.
And Justice Patel said there is a need for timely law reforms that will give judges and magistrates discretionary sentencing powers other than depending on mandatory minimum sentences only.
She said in view of the current COVID-19 situation, appropriate reforms are needed in the law so that judges can mete out appropriate sentences for particular cases to avoid overcrowding correctional facilities.
And Kitwe High Court judge-in-charge Charles Chanda said judiciary workers are frontliners in the COVID-19 pandemic because justice has to be served regardless of the circumstances.
He said well-wishers and local leaders in Kitwe should therefore consider the judiciary whenever they are giving out chemicals and protective equipment necessary for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
He also said the high court in Kitwe faces challenges in its supervisory role of courts in far flung areas such as North Western Province because of perennial transport challenges.
Meanwhile, Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) representative Elijah Banda S.C has called for the increased use of technology in the administration of justice.
Mr Banda said platforms such as zoom and Skype should be used especially in the disposal of interlocutory applications.
He also urged lawyers to embrace the use of alternative dispute resolutions to avoid crowding courts and also help in clearing backlogs.
Kitwe Mayor Christopher Kang’ombe who graced the event promised to pass on the concerns and observations raised by the judges to the necessary offices.