If there is something that irritates, it is the retort, “But it is the law. There is nothing we can do about it.” And this is often said when the law is being an ass, as Americans like to say. The ongoing case of the Morupisi is instructive. Accused persons have previously been granted bail by a lower court. Their case has since been referred to a higher court. This is all good and fine until you realise that it means their bail now stands revoked and they must go to prison until the court they are committed to rules in favour of a new bail application.
This is everything anti-liberty. Forget that it is Morupisi today because yesterday it was someone else and tomorrow it will be someone else yet. For the record, I have no personal affinity for the Morupisi family. We are neither friends nor enemies but we are fellow citizens. They will suffer a lot of injustice even if they may ultimately be found to be without guilt. If the magistrates’ court had found in the first place that the accused is not a flight risk or would not interfere in any way with investigations, why commit the accused to jail? It is not the fault of the accused that the case is being referred to a higher court but a decision of the lower court.
But it is an absolute travesty that the lower court should decide, for whatever reason, to refer the case elsewhere. Why should the liberty of the accused be at stake for an action motivated not by them? The magistrates court decides and the consequences are suffered by the accused!
The usual answer, whenever you ask, is to be told, “It is the law. It is procedure.” I am yet to fathom what is worse – the retort or the retorter? This response has become so normalised that you would think there is a God somewhere that gave the law and so the law cannot be changed. It is one thing to have procedural certainty and it is another to have normalisation of a travesty branded procedure.
Officers of court, legislators and civil society must forthwith move to change such bad laws. We cannot have people jailed for merely being accused when by all counts they are not a risk if not remanded in custody. It is even more laughable when a competent court within our jurisdiction had ruled that the accused may enjoy bail.
This practice is akin to toying with the lives and liberty of accused persons. The courts are playing God and not being magnanimous while at it. It is some sort of judicial tyranny, and if left unchecked, citizens will suffer harm purely on the basis of who likes and who does not like who.
Absolutely anyone could fall a victim. If this is happening to the Permanent Secretary to the President (good thing that all are equal), it ought to say to us that mere mortals suffer even worse.
Change this bad law. We cannot have more people go through its wrath. But I know the legislators are slow. In the meantime, we need activist magistrates and judges to rule against its application or simply ignore it. We need Robin Hoods within the judicial system to look the other way and ensure that this monstrosity is ended.