The Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and Other Disputes) Bill of 2016 is currently pending Zimbabwean parliamentary debate. The purpose of the Bill is to amend sections of the High Court Act, the Magistrates Court Act and the Small Claims Court Act with a view to speed up and to facilitate the settlement of disputes, particularly disputes of a commercial nature.
The Bill proposes that the Intellectual Property Tribunal, which was constituted in terms of the Intellectual Property Tribunal Act, be declared a specialised division of the High Court. The Bill also provides for hearings in court or in chambers to be conducted by way of use of electronic devices or other means of communication subject to agreement between the parties, if a party cannot to be physically present at the hearing. This is referred to in the Bill as “virtual sittings”. Provision is also made for the electronic authentication of Court documents and electronic access to records filed with the Courts.
The Bill is perceived as an attempt to bring legal proceedings in Zimbabwe up to speed with the realities of the digital era and to facilitate the settlement of matters in a speedy and effective manner.