Editor's Comment

It’s time to review JCC

OUR Judiciary has for a long time been on trial but this escalated after the 2016 tripartite elections.

For the first time in many years, judgements were perceived from either political or tribal lens.
Whenever a judgement was passed either in the High Court or indeed the Supreme Court, including the Constitutional Court, some citizens chose to analyse the composition of the benches by tribe.
Tribe has become such a big issue in Zambia because of the manner in which some individuals and parties practice politics.
After analysing the composition of the bench, some citizens never looked at the merit of the judgements but found a basis for attacking the judiciary.
Other citizens decided to contest decisions of the courts by complaining to the Judicial Complaints Commission (JCC).
The JCC was set up for members of the public to complain against the judiciary if a person is not happy with the conduct of the judge or suspects foul play during the recourse of the case.
While petitioning the JCC is a right, it is the manner in which some complaints were being framed, especially that most of them are first availed to the media.
Even acknowledgements by the JCC receiving complaints against the named judges were first flashed to the media, especially Facebook and WhatsApp.
This could compromise the outcome of the JCC decisions as interested parties already knew when their sponsored complaints would be heard.
This is why respected Lusaka High Court judge Mwila Chitabo has called for the restructuring of the Judicial Complaints Commission to end the current system of “lawyers trying judges” in matters brought by “disgruntled litigants”.
Justice Chitabo said on Monday that it is of concern that the office of the Chief Justice, which is the head of the Judiciary, does not sit on the Judicial Complaints Commission.
Judge Chitabo has observed that in the composition of the Judicial Complaints Commission, the lawyers are trying judges.
He holds a very strong view that judges should only be tried by their peers or superiors in service, or those who have held the high judicial office of a judge.
Justice Chitabo has proposed that Chief Justice Irene Mambilima should head the commission, instead of its current form.
There may be need, however, to critically review this proposal as some could contend that the Chief Justice cannot be judge and jury.
Rather, the JCC should comprise eminent retired judges, magistrates, representatives from the Law Association of Zambia, the Zambia Institute for Advanced Legal Education, and representatives from the School of Law at the University of Zambia, among others.
The bottom line is to retain confidence in our Judiciary because it has proved to be very independent.
Let us tower above political and tribal inclinations in our perception of the Judiciary.

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