The High Court of Zambia.
The High Court of Zambia is established under article 133.(1) of the Constitution of Zambia Act Number 2 of 2016.
The High Court has the following divisions; Industrial Relations Court, the Commercial Court, the Family and Children’s Court.
Subject to Article 128, the High Court has:
- Unlimited and original jurisdiction in civil and criminal matter.
- Appellate and supervisory jurisdiction, as prescribed, and
- Jurisdiction to review decisions, as prescribed.
The Judge in Charge is responsible for the general operation of High Court. The Judge in Charge is assisted by the Registrar of the High Court who is based at the High Court, supported by other administrative officers in carrying out the day to day administrative functions.
(a) The Chief Justice, as an ex-officio judge;
and (b) Such number of judges as prescribed. The Chief Justice may constitute, by statutory instrument, specialized Courts of the High Court to hear a specific matter. The composition of Courts specified above shall be prescribed. The High Court has, subject to Article 128-
(a) Unlimited and original jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters;
(b) Appellate and supervisory jurisdiction, as prescribed; and
(c) Jurisdiction to review decisions, as prescribed.
The High Court is constituted by one Judge or such other number of Judges as the Chief Justice may determine
THE INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS DIVISION
Jurisdiction The Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction in all industrial relations matters such as:
- inquiring into and making decisions in collective disputes
- interpreting the terms of collective agreements and recognition agreements, and
- generally adjudicating upon any matter affecting the collective rights, obligations and privileges of employees, employers and representative organizations.
The court is composed of:
- A Chairman
- Deputy Chairmen; and
- Not more than ten members as the Minister of Labour may appoint
The Chairman and Deputy Chairmen shall have the same tenure and security of office as a Judge of the High Court
Who may institute a complaint?
- Employees including former employees of any category excluding those employed in the Zambia Defence Force, Zambia Police Service
- Zambia Prisons Service, Zambia Security Intelligence Service ,Judges, Registrars of the Court and Magistrates of the Subordinate and Local Courts.
- A person under the age of 21 must be assisted by his/her parents or legal guardians.
- Members and officers of a trade union.
- A trade union
Against whom may a complaint be instituted?
Against employees, employers and trade unions.
What matters are excluded from the jurisdiction of the court?
All cases not founded on an employee/employer relationship.
Are you compelled to institute your case in the Industrial Relations Division (IRD)?
Except for cases concerned with the activities of trade unions you may choose to institute the claim in the Local Court, or the Subordinate Court, depending on the amounts of compensation e.t.c that you may wish to be awarded.
Legal representation and assistance in the preparation of your claim.
- Representation by a lawyer is allowed.
- A Union representative can represent you.
THE COMMERCIAL COURT
The Commercial Court Division is one of the Divisions of the High Court of Zambia. It is established pursuant to Article 133(2) of the Constitution of Zambia, as amended by Act No. 2 of 2016. The Division is specialized at resolving cases arising from commerce, trade, industry and any transactions of a business nature. It is a fast-track Court for the business community.
The processes and procedures of the Division are provided for in the High Court Act, Chapter 27 of the Laws of Zambia. Due to its fast-track nature, the Rules of the Commercial Court are stringent so that matters coming to the Court are disposed of quickly. These special Rules of the Court are found under Order LIII of the High Court Rules, Chapter 27 of the Laws of Zambia. The Rules have strict time frames within which certain actions and steps should be taken. Order LIII has sanctions which are meant to make the parties move with all the speed required to dispose of the cases as quickly as possible.
The Court began its operations as a List of the High Court at Lusaka in 2000 and its Judges started circuiting Kitwe in 2015. In January, 2017, a resident Judge was permanently deployed at Kitwe. Therefore, since its establishment as a Division of the High Court, the Commercial Court has been operating at Lusaka and Kitwe and anyone wishing to commence aa commercial action in Zambia can file at any of the two Registries.
The Chief Justice designates a Judge-in-charge and other Judges of the Court. For its day-to-day affairs, the Court is administered by the Registrar who superintends over the support staff. Being a business Court, Order LIII Rule 11 allows a Judge of the Court to determine if the cause of action is suitable for inclusion or exclusion in the Commercial Court.
Amongst the pertinent and peculiar procedures in the Commercial Court are that each statement of claim or counter-claim must state in clear terms the material facts upon which a party relies and must show a clear cause of action, failing which the statement of claim or counter-claim may be struck out, set aside or the action may be dismissed. The defence should equally not be a bare denial or a general statement of non-admission but must specifically traverse every allegations of fact otherwise it will be deemed to be an admission. The process in the Court is also fully judge-driven as judges of the Court conducts scheduling and status (compliance) conferences and whatever directions the judge issues must be adhered to strictly. Judges also hear all interlocutory applications in this Court.
Further, in order fast-track the proceedings, filed witness statements are treated as evidence-in-chief of the witness as they contain all the facts relevant to the party’s case thereby serving time. The Rules are very strict on adjournments as they provide that a Judge shall not grant an application for an adjournment except in compelling and exceptional circumstances. In the Commercial Court, failure to attend a hearing without justifiable cause results in the party so absent to be condemned in hearing fees and costs and this may also result in dismissal of an action. A party to an action may also apply to a Judge to dismiss an action if sixty days elapse without progress being made on the case after the action is filed.
Further, it is a requirement that every interlocutory application in the Court be supported by a list of authorities and skeleton (brief) arguments, stating the facts and law and copies of authorities relied upon must be supplied wherever possible. This is all in order to expedite the hearing and the decision making.
The Commercial Court also encourages mediation and arbitration. In order not to delay the mediation process, the Rules require that thirty days from the date of reference of the case to mediation, the case be referred back to the trial Judge who shall summon the parties within fourteen days and issue directions on the schedule of events in the matter.
In order to improve the operations of the Commercial Court, there is established under the rules a Commercial Users Committee which is a forum for the exchange of ideas or views for making recommendations for improvement of the Court. At this forum, amongst other things discussed are trending issues in commercial transactions and the Committee invites different experts to come and present papers. At the same meetings, case disposal rates are discussed and stakeholders also bring forward the concerns from their various industries and even from the members of the public. Representation on this Committee is drawn from all the Judges of the Commercial Court; two representatives of the Law Association of Zambia; one representative of the Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry; one representative of the Bankers Association of Zambia; the Chief Administrator of the Judiciary, members of the public appointed by the Chief Justice and the Court Registrar who is Secretary of the Committee. This forum ensures that there is continuous interaction with the stakeholders and regular updates on the activities of the Commercial Court Division.
THE FAMILY AND CHILDREN’S DIVISION
Legal Status The Family and Children’s Division is a division of the High Court of Zambia established under the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act number 2 of 2016. The division is in its infancy having been created in 2016. It is headed by a judge in charge based at Lusaka and has district registries in all places of sittings of the High court. Currently, other than the judge in charge there are no specific judges assigned to it meaning that all judges in the general list take up and hear matters filed in the division.
As part of its development, a committee to formulate matrimonial causes rules, probate rules and related laws has been set up. It is headed by the judge in charge and has so far concluded and submitted to the ministry of justice draft matrimonial causes rules which are awaiting enactment by parliament. The committee also recently concluded on the first drafts of intestate and testate rules respectively. The committee is expected to submit the final drafts by September, 2019.
Objectives And Functions Of The Court The current main objective of the division is to establish fully functional courts in all places of sittings of the High court so as to offer to the public suitable and expedient justice in family and children’s matters. The Family and Children’s Division exercises jurisdiction in all family and children’s matters exercisable by the High Court. They include the following:
- Petitions for divorce;
- Petitions for judicial separation;
- Custody of children disputes;
- Applications for maintenance orders;
- Applications relating to willful neglect to maintain children;
- Applications relating to property adjustment;
- Intestate succession disputes;
- Wills and administration of estates;
- Affiliation and adoption orders;
- Appeals from the Subordinate Courts in all family and children’s matters
– High Court Judges[/alert]