A LEGAL maxim ‘Judges, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion’ expresses the importance of integrity or probity in the discharge of judicial duties.
This is to ensure access to justice for all. The Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania provides in Article 13(3) that the civic rights, duties and interests of every person and community shall be protected and determined by the courts of law or other state agencies established by or under the law.
Article 13(6)(a) further provides that, when the rights and duties of any person are being determined by the court or any other agency, that person shall be entitled to a fair hearing and to the right of appeal or other legal remedy against the decision of the court or of the other agency concerned.
All this translates into saying that Judges have the responsibility of ensuring justice is not only done, but also seen to have been done by ordinary members of society.
When addressing Judges on various occasions President John Magufuli has time and time again reiterated this judicial obligation and legitimate expectation.
According to him, justice shouldn’t be bought by all means. Even Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was very emphatic on this aspect for once it is bought, then the innocent are easily made guilty and the guilty made innocent.
In Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in the 1760s, William Blackstone says: “It is better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
Citing Sir Matthew Hale in particular, he gives two rules that he says must be strictly observed: “1. Never to convict a man for stealing the goods of a person unknown, merely because he will give no account how he came by them, unless an actual felony be proved of such goods; and, 2.
Never to convict any person of murder or manslaughter till at least the body be found dead; on account of two instances he mentions where persons were executed for the murder of others who were then alive, but missing.
” Blackstone’s quote is to stress the necessity of integrity in discharging judicial duties – in particular in the administering justice – for once a Judge shows bias or partiality in his or her discharge of duties, then it means there are thousands of ordinary people who are going to suffer grievously from it.
That is why Judges ought to be above suspicion and deliver judgment without fear or favour. In light of this, we want to underline the advice given by five retired High Court judges to in-service members of the bench on Friday.
Their message stressed that Judges must be God-fearing, impartial, firm and respect the oath they took and dispense justice fairly and timely.
We don’t find a better way of putting these words, but leave them as they stand.