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Appeal Court boss bemoans absence of separate budget

by Lesotho Times
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MASERU — The President of the Court of Appeal on Friday said the lack of a separate budget was seriously hampering the administration of justice in the country’s highest court.

Justice Michael Ramodibedi told the closing session of the court that repeated calls for a separate budget had been ignored.

“We have in the past made a clarion call for a separate budget for the Court of Appeal if it is to function effectively along the lines of the two Houses of Parliament,” he said.

“Nothing has happened so far and we can only renew the call as we do.”

Justice Ramodibedi said the Court of Appeal was an entirely different institution from the High Court.

“Purely as an example, we had only two criminal appeals in this session because records had not been transcribed in other areas where appeals have been noted.

“The trademark explanation is that there are no funds or these have been diverted elsewhere in the High Court. Similarly, law reports are not being kept up to date,” he added.

The judge said the Court of Appeal was also being forced to manage with outdated editions of leading textbooks.

Justice Ramodibedi indicated that out of the 29 appeals enrolled for hearing this session, three were postponed.

The remainder were all disposed of with full reasons given.

“As I have said before it is hoped that this industry, with professionalism and dedication on the part of the honourable Appeal Court judges will serve as an example to the other judicial officers in the country,” he said.

Other shortcomings noted during this session were that record indexes failed to give details of the pages on which deponents’ affidavits appear.

Justice Ramodibedi warned that this must be rectified otherwise the index will be of little or no assistance.

“This must be the subject of a complaint to the Ministry of Justice,” he said, indicating that heads of argument were being filed late, sometimes at the very last minute, when the roll is made known  well in advance.

These must be filed in time to accompany the records that go to the judges, Justice Ramodibedi said.

“Heads of arguments must be filed in strict compliance with the rules of the court especially Rule 9 of the Court of Appeal.

“Unfortunately there are cases in which due compliance occurs but the heads are misfiled in the registry. Practitioners and the members of the registry staff are requested to achieve improvement in these respects,” he said.

This is the second time that Justice Ramodibedi has complained about the inadequate resources in the Court of Appeal.

In April while opening the first session of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ramodibedi said the court was faced with several challenges.

“I have over the years fought for the independence of the Court of Appeal in accordance with the Constitution,” he said.

“We need to instill confidence in the minds of members of the public that the Court of Appeal as the highest court in the country is not an extension of the High Court”.

The public also needed to feel that when they came before this court on appeal they could expect fairness and justice as well as a speedy resolution of their disputes, he said then.

The Court of Appeal president regretted that despite his relentless fight for the independence of the court, he had met with fierce resistance from certain faceless quarters.

“It is not surprising, therefore that my strong objections to the Administration of the Judiciary Bill 2010 as well as my objections from many reputable voices in the country fell on deaf ears,” he said.

Justice Ramodibedi said the Bill was passed despite his written objections.

It had been drafted without involving him as the president of Court of Appeal. This, he said, was designed to undermine his constitutional authority as the head of the highest in the country.

“I am reliably informed that the Bill originated from the High Court. If this be correct, it is shocking that the High Court could seek to elevate itself above the Court of Appeal contrary to the constitutional structure of the courts in this country,” Justice Ramodibedi said.

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