President Edgar Lungu has said no one should influence the judges when discharging their judicial functions.
And President Lungu says it is a fundamental human right for any accused person to be subjected to a court process that guarantees a speedy and fair outcome.
Officiating at the Judicial Conference in Livingstone, Tuesday, President Lungu said while the courts must remain independent in the dispensation of justice, that independence should not be used to suppress judicial accountability.
“Article 122 Clause 1 of the Constitution clearly enjoins the courts to remain impartial and independent of all external pressure or improper influence. This means that there is no authority or person who should influence your ladyships or lordships in the discharge of your judicial functions. However, judicial independence should not be used to suppress judicial accountability. Article 178 indicates that the authority of the judiciary is derived from the people. It is further communicated that as the judiciary, you are accountable to the people. While independence entails freedom from external influence in your decision making, accountability requires that at least judgments must be delivered in a timely manner,” President Lungu said.
“For example, what would be the justification for not delivering judgment three years after the conclusion of trial? The people of Zambia need a vibrant judiciary that is equal to the task.”
He said an impartial and accountable judiciary creates public confidence.
“We owe the Zambian people a justice system that is accessible and impartial to all litigants irrespective of their standing in society, a system that is efficient and delivers results within a reasonable time, a system that is user friendly and ensures that its users understand it, and more importantly, a justice system that responds to the needs of its litigants and is efficient and effective,” President Lungu said.
And President Lungu said the backlog of pending cases and judgments is a cause of concern which is haunting many judiciaries across the globe.
He said it was imperative that cases were heard and determined within a reasonable time and concluded with well-reasoned judgments.
“This conference comes at a time when the demands for justice and speedy justice for that matter are on the increase while the institutional capabilities continue to be overstretched. It is therefore suitable that a conference such as this one interrogates how best to enhance institutional capacities to improve access to justice, and facilitate speedy delivery of justice. Undoubtedly, the backlog of pending cases and judgments is a cause for concern and one that is haunting many judiciaries across the globe. However, it is a fundamental right that accused persons and litigants must have their day in court and know their fate or outcome of their cases,” said President Lungu.
“It is, therefore, imperative that cases are heard and determined within a reasonable time and matters are concluded with well-reasoned judgments. It is said ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. Due to this delay in justice, our people, some of whom are erroneously behind bars, have continued to be denied justice. This is unacceptable, and a lasting solution to this problem must be sought. However, I will be quick to note that the judiciary is already taking measures to reduce the backlog of cases and expedite the delivery of judgments in keeping with its constitutional mandate.”