DAR ES SALAAM: Chief Justice Ibrahim Juma said on Monday all court decisions, normally written in English, will have a Kiswahili brief come next month to enable litigants and other interested people to easily grasp and understand the decisions.
English has been the predominant language of law, court records and proceedings in Tanzania since the colonial era, while Kiswahili is restricted to primary courts.
Debate has been raging on and off for years over the role language plays in delivery of justice and adoption of Kiswahili as the language of law in Tanzania.
The question has been: ‘which language should Tanzanian courts use in its proceedings and in writing of judgments in a county where the majority of court users are comfortable with Kiswahili?”
Yesterday, Chief Justice Ibrahim Juma said during a press conference that the Kiswahili briefs that will come with judgments written in English was an initial step toward full implementation of judiciary’s plans to start preparing its judgments in Kiswahili.
Prof Juma was addressing journalists on the preparations of Law Day celebrations on February 1 that will go along with the marking of 100 years of the Judiciary in Tanzania.
Currently, district and resident magistrate courts uses Kiswahili to hear cases. But the proceedings and judgments of the courts are recorded and prepared in English.
A similar system is used by the High Court and the Court of Appeal except in few cases.
Former Chief Justice the late Augustino Ramadhani is on record as telling The Citizen during an interview a decade ago that he would want to see courts in Tanzania fully adopts the use of Kiswahili before he left office.
Recently, the Legal and Constitutional Affairs minister Mwigulu Nchemba directed government institutions and authorities dealing with enactment of laws to consult experts to interpret all laws in Kiswahili to enable Tanzanians understand issues pertaining to administration of justice.
Yesterday, Prof Juma revealed that Mr Nchemba visited the Judiciary towards the end of last year when they held deep talks on the use of Kiswahili language in administration of justice in the whole of the country.
He said they agree that the issue should be handled with great care as English has been a language of law and court in Tanzania since the colonial era and is also used in legal training.
“So, this issue needs preparation, and I think we have started and the first step we are taking is to look at computer software that would enable instant interpretation of decisions in different languages,” the professor said.
He said Law Day will be preceded by one week of various activities, including exhibitions and legal education programmes at Nyerere Square that would culminate in Law Day on February 1.
He said the event will be graced by President John Magufuli.
Law Day is an annual celebration to reflect on the rule of law in the country which also marks the beginning of the judicial calendar.
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