IT is said that justice delayed is justice denied.
We welcome the timely, if not belated, observation by acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda that corruption among magistrates and unnecessary delays in the dispensation of justice are painting the Judiciary in a negative light.
Justice Chibesakunda did not mince her words when she said it was utterly disappointing and disheartening that some magistrates were indulging in corrupt practices when the public was looking up to the Judiciary to get some justice.
Only in October last year, a senior Lusaka local court magistrate Kaputo Modest N’gandwe was arrested for corrupt practices involving K5,000 while in March, a Solwezi magistrate Henry Haongola was also arrested for corrupt practices involving about K7,000.
From these cases of magistrates that fell foul of the law last year, it appears the most common corrupt practice among members of the Judiciary is receiving gratification from people with a view to passing judgment in a particular way.
“I am seriously beseeching you to avoid corruption in whatever form. Corruption does not pay. I am sure you are aware of some of your colleagues that have lost their jobs and ended up in prison due to corrupt practices. I do not think you want to end your career that way,” Justice Chibesakunda said.
This challenge comes out as a rallying cry by the acting Chief Justice who obviously does not want to be at the helm of a corrupt Judiciary with a tainted image. Remember that building an image takes longer than destroying it, which can take a matter of minutes.
Ideally, courts of law are supposed to be institutions for aggrieved people to seek redress but if the very people charged with the responsibility of dispensing justice involve themselves in corrupt practices, then it defeats the whole purpose of going to court.
Although the number of magistrates that have so far been arrested or linked to corrupt practices is negligible, the same few have the capacity of negating the gains that have been scored in the Judiciary.
The Judiciary is supposed to be an important and autonomous estate where litigants rush for the resolution of disputes, and it will be imperative upon the magistrates to conduct themselves in a manner that befits their standing in society.
We also support what Justice Chibesakunda said when she directed subordinate and local court magistrates whom she addressed in Lusaka to always adhere to their handbook and generally endeavour to deliver justice fairly and expeditiously.
Speedy delivery of justice is not just about painting a better image of the Judiciary in the public eye but can also be used as the logical way of decongesting prisons that continue to harbour some inmates waiting unnecessarily long for the disposing of their cases.
We call upon the magistrates to heed the order by the acting Chief Justice to balance their work to avoid unnecessary adjournments and ensure timely delivery of well-reasoned judgments bearing in mind that justice delayed is justice denied while at the same time justice hurried is justice buried.