Friday, February 23, 2024
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Govt to table high court amendment Bill 2023

Government is expected to table the High Court (Amendment) Bill 2023 to Parliament in the next sitting.

This has been passed in Cabinet, after senior members of Government met to deliberate the matter.

If passed, the Bill is to the repeal of the Anti-Corruption Division both in the Magistrates Court and the High Court respectively.

Background

In 2021, the previous Government introduced the High Court (Amendment) Bill that the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption was established under the FICAC Act 2007 and is tasked with effectively combating corruption in order to promote transparency and accountability for good governance in Fiji.

In relation to prosecuting cases related to corruption that are reported to and investigated by FICAC, FICAC institutes proceedings in the Magistrates Court and High Court of Fiji.

These cases are then added to the list of numerous cases currently being presided over in both the Magistrates Court and the High Court.

Nothing the above, the High Court (Amendment) Bill 2021 was intended to create a specialized court within Fiji’s judicial system which will allow anti-corruptions cases to be dealt with effectively and expeditiously.

The Bill will establish a specialized Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court and an Anti-Corruption Division of the Magistrates Court, which will be presided over by Judges and Magistrates who will deal specifically of with cases relating to anti-corruption laws.

The consistent application of anti-corruption jurisprudence in Fiji has become a cause for concern especially when the law is applied differently to anti-corruption cases across the judicial system, where many cases receive a more lenient sentence while some cases receive a higher sentence and some are acquitted while others are found guilty of the same offences.

According to the previous Government, creating specialized anti-corruption courts will ensure that as the designated Judges and Magistrates become specialized in anti-corruption cases, the application of the jurisprudence on anti-corruption cases will be applied consistently across the board in Fiji.

The specialization of local Judges and Magistrates is also an important objective of the Bill given that once Judges and Magistrates are designated to either the Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court or the Magistrate Court, they will become specialized, trained and experts in the area of anti-corruption law.

This will ensure a more timely, effective and expeditious mechanism dealing with complex anti-corruption cases, applying international jurisprudence while at the same time upholding the integrity of the courts and ensuring the prosecuted benefit from a consistent and efficient system.

This will create certainty for all parties and further reinforce the rule of law.

Ilaitia Ravuwai
Ilaitia Ravuwai
Journalist | news@fijilive.com

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