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Chief Justice seeks change

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Chief Justice, Andrew Nyirenda, has expressed concern over the state of the judicial system in the country, calling on stakeholders to find means of improving the systems to prevent court users from getting a raw deal.

Among others, Nyirenda bemoaned lack of enough qualified judges and magistrates to preside over cases in rural areas as well as the unavailability of infrastructure to help the Judiciary administer justice to the rural masses.

He was speaking on Monday in Mangochi when he chaired a judiciary dialogue session which attracted senior officers from the Malawi Police Service, the Malawi Prison Service, the government, the Judiciary and Members of Parliament.

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Nyirenda said the current state of affairs in the Judiciary denies a lot of people their right to justice because of poor service delivery in the country’s courts resulting from lack of seriousness and political will to improve affairs of the Judiciary.

“We need to develop a mechanism that can help create a Judiciary that remains in contact with the people it serves so that we can get constant feedback about our services. At the moment it is very unfortunate that we are letting court users down in our service delivery,” Nyirenda said.

The Chief Justice also complained about government’s unwillingness to fill vacancies whenever they appear, saying the development is creating more losers than winners since cases take time to be completed.

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He said the Judiciary has almost half of the required personnel despite an increase in the population which he said requires that the job establishment in the Judiciary also be expanded.

“We have eight justices of appeal. There are 26 judges of the High Court. Additionally, we have 35 professional magistrates who are lawyers and 85 magistrates who are not. These numbers are inadequate to cater for the country’s population that seeks help at the courts,” he said.

He further pleaded with the government to appoint a deputy chief justice in order to help in handling administrative matters in the Judiciary, which he said can help in creating space for the chief justice to conduct his professional duties of handling cases.

“There are a lot of deputies in the country’s other departments such as the presidency and Parliament. What is wrong with appointing a deputy chief justice to reduce the burden of work which is associated with this office? We need to move forward and do what the rest of the world is doing,” he said.

Nyirenda also recommended the formulation of guidelines that must be followed by judges at the Supreme Court of Appeal when passing judgements as one way of bringing sanity and consistency in the administration of justice.

He said, of late, he has learnt with concern that judges deliver different judgements for similar cases, which sends wrong signals to court users.

Reacting to the development, Malawi Law Society President, John Suzi Banda, who also attended the meeting, expressed gratitude that the leadership of the Judiciary had finally acknowledged the challenges that it is facing.

He said with this revelation, the society, together with stakeholders, will contribute ideas on how to improve the situation so that justice is delivered in the best interest of the nation.

“If the Chief Justice had come here to say that all is well at the Judiciary, we could have been worried as Malawi Law Society. But he has painted a true picture of the state of affairs at the Judiciary which needs to be improved because, as a country, we have not been doing well in terms of administering justice to rural areas,” said Banda.

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