Judicial accountability

To whom is the Judiciary finally accountable? 

Technically the judiciary should be accountable to the law, but realistically the judiciary is accountable to public opinion which determines whether it will enjoy the confidence of ordinary litigants.Our Judiciary is at the cusps of dilemma hence the plethora of appeals.

Litigants are wary and not sure of the distance between the judiciary and political influence, given that the president has maintained a very visible and firm grip on this institution.

It is true that some judges as individuals follow a legal calling and therefore rise above their own human limitations to dispense justice with honour and integrity, and yet given our circumstances some judges may simply be former lawyers or at worst lawyers who have a relationship with politicians or indeed friends of the politicians and therefore have a cause to champion. The recruitment of judges is less than transparent, as it has reportedly been reposed in dubious hands with dubious characteristics some lacking in scruples.

This is the question that is bothering litigants and Zambians in general.  The President has tremendous influence on the composition of the Judiciary and some individuals believed to be close to him seem to exercise some measure of control or influence as they are privy to internal information.

It has therefore become very difficult for Zambians to have trust and confidence in the outcomes of the Judiciary resulting in the plethora of appeals, some of them even challenging the decisions of the Supreme Court which should be the final arbiter.

There was a time when criticizing the Judiciary was an absolute anathema and any whiff of criticism directed at the Supreme Court an absolute taboo.

Judges were the very embodiment of justice, inscrutable and individuals of the highest possible integrity beyond political financial or indeed political graft and corruption.  This is not the case now.

The situation has been compounded by the unorthodox and totally unconventional manner in which the ruling party has sought to use the courts in order to change the complexion of the National Assembly where they do not have a majority.

The PF decided to petition all the seats it lost thereby pitting the judiciary in a political scheme. Both the High court and Supreme Court have been used to nullify seats on the basis of alleged electoral offences that have never given cause for Courts to report corruption. 

What is even more distressing is that the PF is now attempting to arm twist the Supreme Court into barring popular candidates from standing through a legal technicality so that it gains advantage.  This is playing politics with the courts.The law is very clear.  The High Court must produce a report indicating corruption for a candidate to be barred.  These reports have not been produced.  Why should the Supreme act on a report that was not presented in the lower court?