Court name
Court of Appeal of Tanzania

Abdallah Bazamiye & Others vs Republic () [1990] TZCA 7 (16 June 1990);

Law report citations
1990 TLR 42 (TZCA)
Media neutral citation
[1990] TZCA 7

Nyalali, C.J., Makame and Ramadhani, JJ.A.: The deceased in the case giving rise to this appeal, Enock Hinyonza Masharubu, was alleged to be a train robber and the contention by the Republic was that he was assaulted to death by the appellants who intended that he should die or suffer grievous harm. During the same D session of assault, the Republic contended, a prosecution witness and an alleged companion of the deceased, a man by the named of Fidelo Mgudo, had both his ears chopped off with a knife by one of the appellants. Both gentlemen assessors who sat with the learned trail judge opined that all the appellants were guilty of murder. The E learned trial judge (Korosso, J.) agreed with the assessors, convicted the appellants for murder, and accordingly condemned them to death. They have appealed to us against that decision and their advocate for the purpose was Mr. Rugarabamu, learned counsel. Mr. Mtaki, learned Senior State Attorney represented the respondent Republic. F
Mr. Rugarabamu came armed with four grounds of appeal seeking to demolish the trial court's decision but before he could make use of his forensic arsenal we drew his attention to a possible issue he might wish to address us on, and it was this: Whether, if the assessors were not given the opportunity to put questions to the witnesses, the trial G could be said to have been with the aid of assessors, and what the effect would be, in law, if the said trial was not with the aid of assessors. We had to stand down the appeal for a brief while so as to give time to counsel to organize himself and prepare his response. H
On resumption Mr. Rugarabamu submitted that because under section 265 of the Criminal Procedure Act all trials before the High Court shall be with the aid of assessors, where such a trial is not with the aid of assessors it is a nullity. He also drew our attention to section 177 of the Evidence Act under which: I

A In cases tried with assessors the assessor may put any questions to the witness, through or by leave of the judge, which the judge himself might put and which he considers proper.
B Mr. Rugarabamu also submitted that it is discernible from the record of trial that the assessors were not invited to put questions to witnesses for, had they been, and they merely declined to accept the invitation because they did not have any questions to ask, or if they had indicated to the trial judge that they wished to put particular questions all of C which the trial judge did not consider proper, the record would have said something like that the questions were 'NIL'. Learned counsel also addressed us on section 290 of the Criminal Procedure Act which provides:
D The witnesses called for the Prosecution shall be subject to cross-examination by the accused person or his advocate, and to re-examination by the advocate for the prosecution.
E If we correctly understood Mr. Rugarabamu, as we reckon we did, he wondered why assessors were not referred to in section 290 like they were mentioned in section 265. Now section 290 deals with witnesses for the case for the Prosecution. We note that it has its counterpart-section 294, when one comes to the case for the F Defence. We do not, however, propose to detain ourselves too long with considering any of the above two sections because, for our present discussion, they are completely irrelevant. They deal with cross-examination and re-examination of witnesses and the accused, none of which is the function of assessors. It is not the duty of G assessors to cross-examine or re-examine witnesses or the accused. The assessors' duty is to aid the trial judge in accordance with section 265, and to do this they may put their questions as provided for under section 177 of the H Evidence Act, 1967. Then they have to express their non-binding opinions under section 298 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1985. We might mention here that, in practice, when they put their questions under section 177 of the Evidence Act 1967 other than through the judge, they do so directly, the leave of the judge being implicit in the judge not stopping them from putting their questions. That is, the discretion remains with the judge to prevent the asking of questions which are, for example patently irrelevant, biased, perverse, or otherwise improper.
I Mr. Mtaki, learned Senior State Attorney, did not seek to challenge Mr. Rugarabamu's submission that the trial judge's failure to comply

with section 265 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1985 made the trial not with the aid of assessors and so rendered A it a nullity. Very briefly, denying the assessors the opportunity to put questions, as we are satisfied was the case in the proceedings below, means that the assessors were excluded from fully participating in the trials; so to the extent that they were so excluded, and denied their statutory right, they were disabled from effectively aiding the trial judge B who could only benefit fully if he took into judicious account all the views of his assessors and those would only emerge from their own appreciation of the case as a whole. Such appreciation would have been influenced and shaped partly by the assessors' sheer need to articulate their own questions which cross their minds as they go C along, and by their own perception of the factual issues involved, as assisted by the assessors' exchanges with the witnesses and the accused. We think that the assessors' full involvement as explained above is an essential part of the process, that its omission is fatal, and renders the trial a nullity. We wish to add another thought to this D exposition: For our purpose in the Court of Appeal, the informed and full views of the assessors become further necessary when we have to rely on what we might call the Segesela principle, that is in the event of the trial judge disagreeing with the unanimous views of his assessors we shall want to determine whether he was entitled to do so. E In order to enable us to make that determination meaningfully we must know the judge's reasons for so disagreeing, and to appreciate those reasons we would have to gauge them against the full and informed views of the assessors which they can only express satisfactorily if the trial was with their aid as explained. This need for a F judge to give his reasons for disagreeing with the unanimous views of his assessors was enunciated in Charles Segesela v R., E.A.C.A criminal appeal no. 13 of 1973, from a case tried in Tanzania, and we wish to express our approval of it. G
For reasons we have endeavoured to explain the High Court proceedings in the case giving rise to this appeal are a nullity. We accordingly quash them and order a retrial of the appellants.
Proceedings quashed. H