Following the CJ’s wise words, judges will have it very smooth

20Nov 2019
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Following the CJ’s wise words, judges will have it very smooth

CHIEF Justice Professor Ibrahim Hamis Juma has just been quoted as having underscored the need for judges and magistrates to execute their duties and responsibilities as independently, fairly and professionally as humanly possible.

In his impassioned “sermon” to that effect, directed at newly appointed judges, the CJ kept harping on the professional and other guidelines judicial officers ought to observe without fail so as to ensure that justice is indeed both done and seen to be done to all without delay.

The hugely instructive remarks made the occasion mimic National Law Day, a day that has traditionally accorded people an opportunity to look back and see how far our country has advanced in ensuring the legal system works as expected in dispensing justice.

In order to gauge how far the nation has progressed on this front, one must of necessity understand that it is closely tied to the progress on the other fronts that translate the best of intentions into results.

This is crucial, for it is the changes made time and again to the legal system and how effectively they are translated into action that mark progress in consolidating the administration of justice.

For instance, on one such occasion, then-President Jakaya Kikwete reminded the judicial cadre that efficient delivery of justice depended on their integrity, issuance of judgment copies on time and speeding up the hearing of cases.

His remarks came in the wake of reports that a good number of prison inmates, even those with petty charges, remained behind bars for merely owing to the poor flow of cases blamed on shortage of the relevant legal personnel.

But obviously aware of the daunting challenges seeking ways out would involve, especially as concerned availability of financial and other resources with which to consolidate the legal system at the grassroots, Kikwete promised to scale up the Judiciary’s budget as a way of boosting efficiency and enhancing governance.

It was also noteworthy that Tanganyika Law Society leadership argued that any justice system would win the people’s hearts and minds only if the people had faith in it.

Surely, if public confidence in the system was eroded, the system would render itself irrelevant – and hence the need for all institutions entrusted with the responsibility of delivering justice to execute their duties to satisfaction.

Universal access to equality before the law is an integral part of what defines the rule of law. Indeed, many of the cries for justice at the grassroots level stem from inadequacy of the legal system and any measures seeking to address the shortfalls are highly welcome.

We appreciate efforts various public and other institutions are making to effect much-needed changes in our laws, with a view to promoting and consolidating the administration of justice. One such encouraging move was with regard to a Cabinet minister’s announcement that the government was working on changes to the Marriage Act of 1971 as a crucial step in the war on domestic violence, specifically gender-based violence (GBV).

Another equally praiseworthy step was a prime minister’s announcement of plans to extend legal aid to people genuinely unable to afford the services of advocates.

Legal systems are far from perfect, but they can – and ought to – be made better and stronger over time. That is also to assume that judicial personnel will execute their duties without fear or favour and generally independently.

Going by the CJ’s counsel, there is completely no reason for any of these officials to default on what is expected of them. So, let them play ball, reminded that access to justice is an inviolable human right.

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