THE Land Court division of the High Court exceeded all expectations by finalising all but one of the 65 cases brought before it in 2016.
This was revealed by Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara when she delivered her keynote address during the official opening of the High Court this past week.
The chief justice announced performance statistics of the Court of Appeal, High Court and the subordinate courts as part of her review of the judiciary last year.
She said the Land Court, which is presided over by two judges, Justices ‘Maseforo Mahase and Sakoane Sakoane obtained close to 100 percent for its performance.
“In 2016, 65 cases were filed in this (Land) court and 64 were finalised which makes up almost 100 percent disposal rate by this division,” Justice, Majara said, adding, “Honourable Justices Mahase and Sakoane, keep up the sterling work.”
Justice Majara also commended the Court of Appeal for disposing of all 64 cases that were filed during both the April and October sessions of 2016.
She also commended the Commercial Division of the High Court for a good performance despite being presided over by just two judges.
“In the Commercial Division of the High Court, a total of 492 trials were filed during the year and 245 were disposed of. A 125 applications were filed and 69 of them were completed.
“It is worth mentioning that despite the high output of completed cases in the Commercial Court, it is still run by only two judges and this number is far from adequate considering the huge workload that keeps increasing at an alarming rate,” she said.
Justice Majara also said the main High Court also performed well considering the low number of judges dealing with both civil and criminal cases.
She said the High Court finalised 754 out of the 871 cases filed before it.
The cases included criminal trials, applications, reviews, appeals and sentences from the subordinate courts.
Criminal and civil cases in the High Court are dealt with by seven judges including the Chief Justice.
She said that the number of registered constitutional cases, inclusive of those carried forward from previous years stood at 23, adding, nine of these were completed, four partly heard, one was withdrawn and others were pending.
Turning to the Labour Appeals Court division of the High Court she noted that it was served by one High Court Judge, Honourable Justice Keketso Moahloli AJ.
“During the 2016 judicial year, 45 appeals were enrolled for hearing, 21 were completed and 10 were partly-heard and/or postponed. 14 judgments were reserved,” she said of the Labour Appeals Court division.
She however, raised concern over the lack of judicial officers in the Labour Court saying it compromised the efficient delivery of justice.
“Most regrettably, not only is the Labour Court based in Maseru only but it currently has one judicial officer who is also its President, Mrs. Mamojela Khabo.
“She is charged with the unenviable and onerous responsibility of serving the entire country in all matters that are brought before her court, not to mention being in charge of the court administration.
“This is an untenable and crisis situation of epic proportions and I fervently hope the Honourable Minister of Labour will heed our desperate plea and address this mammoth problem soonest.”
Justice Majara stated that the Labour Court registered a total of 94 trials and heard 78 in part and completed 16 in 2016.
She also raised concern over a shortage of judicial officers in Mokhotlong district in which the district is served by only one magistrate.
She said to address the shortage of presiding officers in the courts of law “the suggested structural and systematic reforms for the enhancement of efficiency in judicial administration and the administration of justice, in particular a relative quick disposal of cases towards achieving a permanent reduction of backlog hitherto remain to be approved and adequately financed”.