Source: Judicial Laws Amendment Bill to introduce virtual court sittings – NewsDay Zimbabwe April 11, 2017
THE proposed Judicial Laws Amendment Bill, currently at the drafting stage in the National Assembly, seeks to introduce the virtual sittings concept, where court proceedings would be done electronically with the parties not physically present in the courtroom.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Clifford Sibanda, the Minister of State in Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office, told MPs recently that the Bill also seeks to improve the ease of doing business.
“This will enable provision to be made by rules of court for virtual sittings of the court at which all or any of the parties to a civil suit may (by mutual agreement) participate in sittings of the court by electronic means, and the virtual sitting will enable court proceedings to take place especially in places where parties involved are outside the country, in hospital or have failed to attend court due to other commitments,” Sibanda said.
The virtual sittings will consist of the judges of the High Court and magistrates in matters heard at the magistrates’ court, who will sit in court or in chambers communicating electronically with all parties.
“The communication is by use of any electronic or other means of communication by which all the parties to the proceedings at the sitting can hear and be heard at the same time without being physically present together. Some business previously confined to the civil courts will qualify to be heard by superior judicial offices via telephone and video conferencing.”
Sibanda said the Bill acknowledges the possibility that the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act may, under exceptional and specific circumstances, allow the use of virtual sittings in criminal hearings, although virtual sittings apply to civil proceedings and not criminal proceedings.
“Virtual sittings will assist in speedy resolution of commercial disputes between parties electronically, without them being necessarily present in court,” he said.
Sibanda added that the proposed Bill would also provide for the creation of High Court divisions to speed up resolution of disputes.
“The High Court will be given some powers to create divisions through a Statutory Instrument where necessary, in this instance, the Commercial Division. From time to time, the High Court may create divisions to speed resolution of disputes,” he said.