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Case backlog chokes courts

Gladys Gondwe

CHAMKAKALA—Proposes sector funding plan

The judiciary is asking for a fixed annual budgetary allocation of three percent of the national budget to effectively deal with the mounting pressure of case backlog that includes about 400 active homicide cases in their files.

Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Gladys Gondwe said the judiciary allocation was not enough to cater for a huge case backlog and that there is a need for increasing the number of judges to handle homicide cases.

“Top on the judiciary’s reform agenda is securing a fixed percentage of the national budget. Currently, we are asking for three percent which is yet to be implemented. If this were implemented the judiciary would have adequate funds to meet the current demand for homicide trials,” she said.

Recently 12 judges were appointed but Gondwe said more judges are still needed as well as support staff like court clerks and translators.

The 2021/22 national budget is pegged at K1.9 trillion whose three percent translates to K57 billion.

Treasury spokesperson Williams Banda asked for more time to look at the request in question but said resources are always limited and there is a need for government to rationalise the funds.

“There are so many requests which come to the ministry. You know there is the Abuja Declaration which says 15 percent of the budget should go to the health sector. The education sector also has its requirement but at the end of the day, we have to rationalise the resources available. You should also note that the judiciary already retains some of the fees such as the sheriff fees to supplement their budget,” he said.

Almost 95 percent of the homicide cases are represented by personnel from the Legal Aid Bureau which also lacks adequate funds to handle its cases including homicide.

Legal Aid Bureau Director- General Masauko Chamkakala said they have not been able to process any payments since July due to problems with the Ifmis and have not been able to effectively discharge their duties including handling homicide cases.

He then said there is a need for the whole justice sector to have a funding plan so that all the players have resources.

“This is a multi-sector issue and that means all of the players should have resources. It does not make sense that the judiciary should have money when Legal Aid Bureau and the police do not have money. At the end of the day, no cases will be tried.

“That is why we proposed that there must be a sector funding plan so that we know if the judiciary is getting this much, we are getting this, the prosecution is getting this much and the prison is getting that much. Sometimes hearings fail to take place because the prisons do not have vehicles to ferry inmates,” he said.

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