Judicial Amendment Bill: MP’s Against Virtual Courts

Judicial Amendment Bill: MP's Against Virtual Courts

Law makers have shot down the establishment of virtual courts citing constitutional violations and poor infrastructure as justifications.

The Judicial Laws Amendment Bill aims to harmonize seven acts with the constitution and implement virtual court sessions.

The parilamentary committee on Justice, Parliamentary, and Legal Affairs carried hosted public hearings around the country from August 10 to August 12, 2022.

However, parliamentarians rejected the bill after findings of the public hearings were tabled in the August House last week.

Harare East Legislator Tendai Biti

Speaking in parliament last week Harare East Legislator Tendai Biti said the move was against tenents of the constitution.

“The first problem is that it is unconstitutional in many respects and the Committee on Justice has pointed it out.

“The Constitution is very clear in Section 50 that a person is entitled to a free and fair trial by an independent impartial court.

“That same Constitution in Section 50, makes it very clear that the trial must be open to members of the public and particularly a criminal trial; it is so important that a criminal trial is open to the public.

Biti added that besides the accused being on trial, the conduct of court officials such as judge and prosecutor are under trial.

Hatfield Legislator Hon Tapiwa Mashakada

Similarly, Hatfield legislator Hon Tapiwa Mashakada highlighted the problems that arise with virtual courts.

“There are a lot of practical and administrative questions which are not answered by this Bill.

“Imagine in a criminal trial, the presiding officer, magistrate or judge is seated in his own office, the witness seated in their own offices, the prosecutor sitting in his office, the accused sitting somewhere in that office.

“How does this happen?

“You know that in court proceedings, when an advocate is representing me, there are times when he or she has to consult me in person, whisper to me or consult me on certain issues pertaining to my case but now if this is a virtual trial, how does that happen?

“I think the dispensing of justice will be seriously compromised by these virtual trials,” Mashakada said.

ZanuPF Chief Whip Pupurai Tongarepi

However, ZanuPF chief whip Pupurai Tongarepi maintained that virtual court sessions would ensure justice will not be delayed.

“It is very important that we follow what is happening around the globe that technology is changing.

“Now that the environment is changing, technology has come to facilitate things that would otherwise delay justice. In my view, what the Executive is trying to do is not to say we are going to have virtual trials on everything.