Chief Justice announces Supreme Court directions


Chief Justice, Andrew Nyirenda, has directed that, in determining any matter, the Supreme Court of Appeal should be constituted by the current composition of nine Justices of Appeal.

In a memorandum to practice direction, Nyirenda says that, in the event where, for any reason, it is not possible or practicable to secure the presence of nine justices of appeal currently composing the Supreme Court of Appeal, the court shall be constituted by seven justices of appeal.

“The objective of the practice direction is to ensure certainty, predictability and settlement of the law in the Supreme Court of Appeal,” Nyirenda says.


The adoption of the 1994 Constitution and the appointment of the first justices of appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal signified the departure from the composition and constitution of the Supreme Court of Appeal under the repealed 1966 Constitution.

However, the constitution of the Supreme Court of Appeal continued to use the Supreme Court of Appeal Act without giving due consideration to the changes and spirit that the 1994 Constitution introduced.

According to Nyirenda, the situation has resulted in the undesired situation of having not one but many supreme courts as the Judiciary can feasibly subdivide the current justices of appeal into panels or groups of three or five justices of appeal.


The division of Supreme Court judges into groups of three or five depends on whether the matter under appeal involves or does not involve the interpretation or application of the Constitution, as the case may be.

“It has further been observed that there have been instances of lack of clarity in settlement of law resulting from combined effect of the Supreme Court of Appeal currently being constituted by three or five justices of appeal, as the case may be, and the court not being bound by its own precedents.

“This has led to difficulties for the legal practitioners to properly advise clients and litigants on the possible outcome of their claims in the courts,” he says.

The Chief Justice also says the situation has resulted in the courts being busy with claims that would otherwise not have merited proceedings had proper advice been given if there was certainty and predictability of the law as settled by the Supreme Court.

The Constitution makes no limitation or restriction to the number of justices of appeal that should constitute the Supreme Court of Appeal except that such a number should always be an uneven number.

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