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Court grants judicial review on allocation of judges

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In a new twist to judiciary’s failure to allocate additional judges to Mzuzu Registry of the High Court, Judge Charles Mkandawire of Lilongwe Registry has granted leave for judicial review against Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) over the matter.

Nyirenda and JSC, who are the first and the second respondents in a matter in which Leonard Kabatika Chipeta, a former employee of FDH Bank, moved the court to grant permission to commence judicial review proceedings on the allocation of judges to the Northern Region, have been given 14 days to respond.

The matter follows the refusal by Justice Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa and Justice Dingiswayo Madise whom the Judiciary is trying to transfer between its High Court registries of Blantyre and Mzuzu to move to their new duty stations.

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In the court records filed through his lawyer George Kadzipatike which Malawi News has seen, Chipeta is accusing Nyirenda and JSC of being unreasonable and discriminatory in the manner in which it allocates judges.

Chipeta indicates that a case in which he dragged Sembeyawo Banda and his former employer FDH Bank Limited to the Mzuzu District Registry of the High Court has taken three months to take-off because of shortage of judges.

“The Respondents’ [Nyirenda and JSC] decision to allocate and maintain only one judge in the Northern Region of the jurisdiction, and to transfer there from Judge Madise and Judge Chirwa to a region which has about 24 Judges who have jurisdiction to sit as High Judges, is a decision which is unreasonable, discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional.

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“Leave for judicial review herein be granted out of time as the applicant [Chipeta] has been waiting for over three months to no avail for the respected Respondents to replace Honourable Madise and Chirwa,” court documents we have seen read.

Judge Mkandawire, however, refused to grant Chipeta stay stopping the decision to transfer Madise and Chirwa from Mzuzu District Registry to the Principal Registry in the Southern Region pending determination of the matter.

Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula says they are doing all they can to make sure the people in the Northern Region have access to justice.

He says in the meantime, the Mzuzu Registry will be served by visiting judges from Blantyre and Lilongwe.

“We appreciate Mr Chipeta’s concern. He has a genuine concern but he should be rest assured that plans are in place for Mzuzu to have more than one judge. We are doing all we can to see to it that people of the North are served with justice,” Mvula said.

Following The Daily Times investigation on Madise and Usiwa Usiwa mid last month, it came to light that the two are protesting to Chief Justice, Andrew Nyirenda, as they feel targeted and that the transfers are not normal.

Madise, the investigation revealed, cited personal reasons for his unwillingness to move to Blantyre while Usiwa Usiwa felt that the transfer came as a punishment and that he has also been denied his contractual entitlements

Mvula at that time admitted that both judges have concerns that their employer has to sort out.

“It is true that Justice Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa does not have a vehicle at the moment. The one that he has been using was given to him as a deputy registrar and it is not roadworthy as it is on and off [the road].

“Currently, he is not even showing up at the office because there is no office space. We do not have office space at the moment but we know surely that the office [Judiciary] is doing all it can to ensure that both judges start discharging their duties as soon as possible for the betterment of the citizenry in terms of access to justice,” Mvula said.

Usiwa Usiwa in a letter dated February 20 2017, to the Chief Justice pleaded that he has been to all four registries of Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Zomba (twice) and Blantyre while some judges have never moved out of the Blantyre registry.

In an interview, Madise expressed hope that he would be moving to Blantyre anytime soon.

“I am still sick as I speak. I am having challenges with my blood pressure. But I am willing to take up the post in Blantyre. We have found a house we were waiting for and it is being painted and the moment work is completed I will move to Blantyre,” Madise said.

The Judiciary deployed Justice Dorothy de Gabrielle, besides Usiwa Usiwa, to the Mzuzu Registry.

De Gabrielle already reported for duty at her new office.

The Blantyre Registry has the highest number of judges followed by Lilongwe.

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