Having a counsel is a constitutional right. Section 24 (3) paragraph (d) of the Constitution states,
“Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be permitted to defend himself or herself before the court in person or, at his or her own expense, by a legal representative of his or her own choice.”
This confirms that every person who is charged with a criminal offence who appears before a court for trial has the right to a counsel. Hence, when a case commences and the counsels decide to withdraw, the accused persons should be given sufficient time to get a counsel of their choice.
This is a fundamental right. Any case that proceeds without giving accused persons sufficient time to get a counsel of their choice would constitute a miscarriage of justice. Justice without a legal counsel of one’s choice is justice denied. Since courts are citadels of justice when the liberty of the accused is at stake, the presumption of innocence demands that reasonable leverage is given to the accused persons to have a fair hearing. This includes having competent counsels to cross examine witnesses.
We therefore hope that this fundamental right is not denied to any accused person being tried as a result of the 14 and 16 April incidents.
Justice should be done and should be seen to be done. This is the verdict of jurisprudence and is incontrovertible.