Specific rules for Concourt set out

Source: Specific rules for Concourt set out | The Herald June 14, 2016

Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter—
The Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe now has its own specific rules that govern its operations, a development that will see only serious and befitting constitutional issues being brought before it for determination.Prior to the enactment of the rules under Statutory Instrument 61 of 2016, the Constitutional Court would rely on Supreme Court rules and some practice directives that were issued by the Chief Justice from time-to-time.

Some litigants would take advantage of the unavailability of definite rules to sneak undeserving cases into the Concourt, thereby unnecessarily clogging the system and creating backlogs.

When the new Constitution came into effect in 2013, it categorically called for the establishment of a stand-alone Constitutional Court to be governed by its own definite rules like any other courts.

In compliance with the Constitution, Government issued Statutory Instrument 61 of 2016, which provides rules for the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court Rules, 2016 became law on June 10, 2016.

Over the past years, some individuals would access the Constitutional Court with petty challenges that would eventually be quashed at preliminary stages. The rules allow for proper screening of matters that deserve a direct approach to the Constitutional Court.

In terms of Rule 21, cases that may be entertained directly without seeking leave from any court of law are listed as follows:

a) Disputes concerning an election to the office of the President or Vice President;

b) Disputes relating to whether or not a person is qualified to hold the office of President or Vice President;

c) Referrals from a court of lesser jurisdiction;

d) Determinations on whether Parliament or the President has failed to fulfil a Constitutional obligation;

e) Appeals in terms of Section 175 (3) of the Constitution, against an order concerning the constitutional validity or invalidity of any law;

f) Where the liberty of an individual is at stake; and,

g) Challenges to the validity of a declaration of a State of Public Emergency or an extension of a State of Public Emergency.

Anything outside the listed instances cannot qualify as a matter deserving direct access to the Constitutional Court. The Registrar of the Constitutional Court works between 8:30am and 1pm. He or she breaks for lunch at 1pm and resumes duty at 2pm and knocks off at 4pm every working day.

In exceptional cases, a judge may direct the registrar to accept some documents from litigants outside office hours. The rules also prescribe the proper procedure for urgent chamber applications, court applications, chamber applications and other processes.

Time frames for appeals are also well set. “An appellant shall note an appeal within the following times:

a) If leave to appeal is not necessary, by filing the notice of appeal with the Registrar within 15 days after the date that the judgment appealed against was handed down;

b) If leave to appeal is necessary and has been granted, by filing the notice of appeal with the Registrar within 10 days of the date of the grant of leave to appeal.”

All courts of law from the Magistrate’s Court, High Court, Supreme Court, Administrative Court and Labour Court have their own specific rules prescribing proper procedure.