Chief jus­tice warns judges against bias

Lesotho Times - - News - Tefo Tefo

CHIEF Jus­tice Nthomeng Ma­jara on Mon­day said judges should ad­min­is­ter jus­tice with­out fear or favour in or­der to earn the re­spect of the pub­lic.

The chief jus­tice made the re­mark while de­liv­er­ing the key­note ad­dress at the of­fi­cial open­ing of the High Court for the year 2016.

“On our part as the ju­di­ciary, may I re­mind us all that we have the re­spon­si­bil­ity not only to dis­pense jus­tice to all per­sons alike with­out fear or favour, but must be seen to be do­ing so.

“We should, thus, epit­o­mise pro­fes­sion­al­ism, in­tegrity and im­par­tial­ity at all times.

“Oth­er­wise, com­pe­tence and ef­fi­ciency will re­main but an empty shell if we can ever al­low our­selves to be seen or per­ceived as ‘politi­cians mas­querad­ing as judges be­hind th­ese ju­di­cial cloaks’ as we were duly cau­tioned by His Ex­cel­lency Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe in his key­note ad­dress at the SADC Chief Jus­tices’ Fo­rum in Vic­to­ria Falls in Septem­ber last year,” she said.

Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe’s speech in ques­tion was read on his be­half by Vice-pres­i­dent Emerson Mnan­gagwa, and read in part: “Ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence, as a con­cept, is noble when used ap­pro­pri­ately to up­hold the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers.

“It is, how­ever, some­times abused by some ju­di­cial of­fi­cers to mys­tify and stem crit­i­cism of un­ten­able court de­ci­sions.

“We re­spect ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence, ap­pro­pri­ately raised, but deplore ju­di­cial of­fi­cers who are in essence politi­cians hid­ing be­hind the cloak of ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence to mask their political in­cli­na­tions.”

Ac­cord­ing to Chief Jus­tice Ma­jara, the is­sue of im­par­tial­ity could, there­fore, not be overem­pha­sized.

“We must there­fore, al­ways guard against con­tribut­ing in any way, by word or by deed, to an­ar­chy and law­less­ness, as their un­savoury con­se­quences would not spare any­one,” she said.

The judge also called on the govern­ment and other state or­gans to ob­serve the rule of law by com­ply­ing with court or­ders and judg­ments.

“I feel duty-bound to re­mind all of us about the im­por­tance of the rule of law, start­ing with the govern­ment, min­istries, de­part­ments and all or­gans of the state, as well as ev­ery ci­ti­zen of this coun­try,” Jus­tice Ma­jara said.

“Ev­ery­one is bound to ob­serve, pro­tect and pro­mote the rule of law.

“This en­tails en­sur­ing that the courts func­tion in a free, safe and se­cure en­vi­ron­ment, free of fear, force or threat of force, in­tim­i­da­tion or any form of un­due in­flu­ence, at all times.

“It also calls for ut­most re­spect of and com­pli­ance with court or­ders and judg­ments as their proper dis­charge is one of the main in­gre­di­ents of this sacro­sanct rule in any con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Chief Jus­tice, re­spect of the law is not a mat­ter of choice or con­ve­nience but a vi­tal con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tion.

“Dis­re­spect or de­fi­ance of court or­ders tar­nishes the im­age and au­thor­ity of the courts and stymies the ex­e­cu­tion of their con­sti­tu­tional man­date as well as cast the coun­try in bad light,” she said.

It was be­cause of th­ese rea­sons that Chief Jus­tice Ma­jara said she was mak­ing her “im­pas­sioned plea to us all, lest we un­wit­tingly find our­selves hav­ing fallen deep into the abyss and chasm of law­less­ness and an­ar­chy which would cer­tainly re­sult in un­savoury and dire con­se­quences to this small but blessed na­tion.”

The judge fur­ther said it was “a well­known fact that where there is ut­most re­spect for the rule of law, jus­tice, peace and sta­bil­ity reign supreme”.

She added: “Where there is peace and sta­bil­ity, in­vestor-con­fi­dence abounds, which in turn, helps the coun­try’s econ­omy to grow, thus cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for em­ploy­ment, re­duc­ing poverty and crime as well as other so­cial ills.”

Jus­tice Ma­jara also raised con­cern over the con­duct of some lawyers.

“To the learned friends, mem­bers of the bar and side­bar, lax­ity in the ob­ser­vance of court rules in the Supreme Courts has lately been a mat­ter of great con­cern.

“Strict ob­ser­vance of the rules al­ways pro­duces good re­sults in that jus­tice is ex­pe­dited,” she added.

The top judge also urged govern­ment to con­sider in­creas­ing the num­ber of judges for the ex­pe­di­tious ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice.

The High Court cur­rently has 12 judges, in­clu­sive of the Chief Jus­tice.

“In­deed, it is wor­thy to note that with more or less a sim­i­lar pop­u­la­tion as Le­sotho, the Botswana High Court has three times the num­ber of judges in com­par­i­son, de­spite re­search hav­ing re­vealed that Batswana are not as liti­gious as our peo­ple. “It is there­fore our fer­vent hope that the govern­ment will heed our clar­ion call to cre­ate more po­si­tions for judges and ju­di­cial of­fi­cers in all the courts so that we can ef­fi­ciently dis­charge our con­sti­tu­tional man­date,” she said.

CHIEF Jus­tice Nthomeng Ma­jara.

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