The two examples below illustrate this point: A custody application in the Magistrates court can only be heard after payment of US$5. The messenger of court will only serve a copy of a warrant or garnishee after he has been paid US$50. Efforts to give free legal aid in the form of legal advice or preparation of court papers becomes fruitless when the person fails to raise these required fees. It is therefore imperative that such fees be revised so that every citizen access justice in the courts.
Whilst it is accepted that the State needs to levy fees to ensure sustainability of the courts, it should also be appreciated that where the fees in question are prohibitive, they end up being a barrier to justice.
It is also important to look at the reality, that average income levels are so low that even a figure of 50 cents, which appears paltry on the face of it, may be a nightmare to raise.
Taking US$140 per month as the average salary for an employee, it is not realistic to expect such a person to spare US$10 for court fees.
Some services sought from these courts for example custody or orders in deceased estates impact greatly on the welfare of the person. To delay obtaining relief whilst one raises the required fees may result in irreparable harm.
The effective realisation of citizens right to use the courts can only be achieved if parliament considers revision of these fees so that access to the courts is not viewed as a preserve for the few. This revision will also complement the efforts by the various organisations which give legal aid to the less privileged.Post published in: Politics