THERE are growing concerns over the manner in which the judicial system is conducting its business.
Citizens and other stakeholders have for a long time now been clamouring for transparency and quality in the delivery of justice.
It would be pretentious to assume that these people who are calling for an overhaul of the judiciary are mischief-makers pushing a baseless agenda.
The events of the past few months have proved beyond any reasonable doubt that legal practitioners and aggrieved citizens alike are in agreement that there is something fundamentally wrong with our current justice delivery system.
Prominent among the alleged delinquencies of the judiciary is the phenomenal delay in concluding cases brought before the courts for judgment.
Only recently we have witnessed cases dating as far back as 1990 being brought to the courts. Hearings of difficult cases have been postponed at the slightest request by lawyers who have found it convenient to delay judgments for their clients to frustrate litigants.
Where cases have been heard promptly there have been unjustified delays in delivering judgment. Recently the Appeal Court noted that a certain judge had unnecessarily delayed pronouncing judgment on a case by as much as two years.
Some judges are said to abscond from duty or report late for work. When they report for duty they have been observed to do very little work.
Apparently any attempt to make the judges accountable has been misinterpreted as interference. The country’s law society has also raised concerns over the manner in which court cases have been administered.
The society has noted that there is a deliberately unfair distribution of work among the judges resulting in some judges being overwhelmed with cases on a daily basis while others have very few cases to handle every week.
There are complaints that in all these instances the Judicial Services Commission has failed to effectively play its supervisory role through censures and correctional measures.
The law society has gone further to question the composition of the commission and the appointment of judges in the different courts.
We are persuaded to agree with the law society that there is something wrong with the composition of the judicial commission. The four members of the commission – who include the Chief Justice, Attorney General and the Public Service Commission chairman – are all political appointees variously answerable to one principal.
The fourth member is supposed to be a judge recommended by the Chief Justice.
You do not need to be a rocket scientist to reckon that the Chief Justice will only recommend for appointment a judge beholden to him and the appointing principal.
In the case of the judicial commission it is clear that it can neither be independent nor representative.
The law society has also raised a frightening allegation that judges are being appointed to the bench without their involvement as statutory stakeholders.
But it is this background that has necessitated the formation of a commission of inquiry by the Lesotho Law Society to investigate possible malpractices in our justice delivery system and then recommend correctional measures.
We applaud this initiative. We see it as the necessary chemo-therapy to deal with the cancer eating into the body of our judicial system.
The commission should be allowed to “investigate any possible corrupt, unprofessional, unethical and any unjudicial practices” that may have crept into the justice delivery system.
It is our belief that all stakeholders should cooperate without prejudice.
Where the process leading to the establishment of the commission of inquiry has flouted legal requirements as insinuated by other stakeholders, we suggest that the law society should promptly rectify the anomaly and proceed within the confines of our laws.
A vibrant judiciary will certainly earn the confidence of the citizens as it ensures that justice is delivered on time. Remembering that justice delayed is justice denied.