In the National Assembly
21st September 2022
JUDICIAL LAWS AMENDMENT BILL [H.B.3, 2022].
THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. PARADZA) on behalf of THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Thank you Hon. Speaker. Allow me to present my Second Reading for the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill.
This is a very short Bill which seeks to amend a number of our judicial laws. The Bill seeks to amend the following Acts:
(i) Constitutional Court Act.
(ii) Supreme Court Act
(iii) High Court Act
(iv) Labour Court Act
(v) Administrative Court Act
(vi) Magistrates Court Act
(vii) Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.
As narrated in the Memorandum of this Bill, its purpose is twofold. It seeks to provide for virtual court sittings in both civil and criminal proceedings and to align various provisions of judicial laws to the Constitution.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the advent of COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge to the conduction of trials in our courts. It however presented an opportunity for our courts not only to come up with adaptation methods to COVID-19 but to synchronise conducting of trial and the new Integrated Electronic Case Management System. This gave birth to virtual courts. 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. This has been found however to be wasteful of time and resources for certain criminal proceedings of a formal rather than substantive nature to be conducted in person. 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, by means of the virtual procedure, to question a witness and to observe the reaction of that witness.
Mr. Speaker Sir, importantly, there was an order which was issued in the case of Legal Resources Foundation and Deaf Zimbabwe Trust vs Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs compelling the suspension of Section 193 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. The reason being that in a case where the accused is deaf or mute, the rights accorded to them are rendered insignificant if the law does not provide for a Sign Language Interpreter. This, therefore, necessitated the amendment of Section 193 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.
It is also necessary to amend Section 246 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, which describes persons with disabilities in a derogatory and offensive manner, which is contrary to the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the Bill before this House seeks to repeal and replace Section 193 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act and substituting it with a section that places an obligation upon the State, of ensuring the availability of a Sign Language Interpreter in a case where the accused person has hearing or speech impairment or both. Further, the Bill gives power to the court to release the accused person on bail or remove such person from remand where the State has failed to secure the services of a Sign Language Interpreter.
In addition, with regards to derogatory descriptions, the Bill removes and replaces words like idiocy, malady and mental disorder and adopts the wording of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
These amendments with regards 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.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I therefore urge Hon. Members to support and pass this Bill. I so submit and move that the Bill be now read a second time. Thank you.