JUSTICE, legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has defended the Judiciary Amendment Bill in Parliament which seeks to provide for virtual court sittings in both civil and criminal proceedings.
Ziyambi argued that the bill would incorporate the rights of disabled persons and the vulnerable despite concerns being raised about the country’s readiness to adopt such a system.
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) launched the virtual court system in February this year to speed up the completion of cases clogging the Judiciary.
“The Bill before this House seeks to provide for virtual court sittings in both civil and criminal proceedings provided the parties consent to have proceedings conducted virtually. Mr Speaker Sir, in addition, the Bill seeks to insert a new section to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act [Chapter 9:07]. Presently, all criminal proceedings are conducted in person with certain exceptions such as those involving vulnerable witnesses.
“Accordingly, this amendment will provide for virtual court sittings in bail and remand other than initial remand proceedings. This is, however, subject to the availability of facilities and also provided that the prosecutor and the accused have the right, using the virtual procedure, to question a witness and to observe the reaction of that witness,” Ziyambi said.
The amendments to the provisions in the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act on persons with disabilities, once enacted will offer protection of the rights of accused persons with hearing or speech impairment or both, and also uphold the rights of persons with disabilities through the use of the correct terminology, Ziyambi said.