By Wezzie Gausi:
The High Court Thursday dismissed Malawi Law Society (MLS)’s application for judicial review against the action by the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament to seek views from the public on paralegals.
Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, have, through Legal Aid Bureau, been courting stakeholders, including Parliament, on the need to amend the Legal Aid Act so that they can be allowed to represent clients in subordinate courts.
High Court Judge Michael Tembo threw out the application on the ground that it was brought to the court prematurely.
MLS Honorary Secretary Chrispin Ngunde said the court has undertaken to give a detailed ruling, setting out reasons for Thursday’s decision, in the coming two weeks.
He said the executive of the society would be meeting soon to map the way forward on the matter.
“As matters stand, it is now open to the society to either make a fresh submission before the Legal Affairs Committee (Lac) or adopt the submissions already made before Lac or renew the application for permission to move for judicial review at the court or wait for any developments at Parliament and take the next step.
“It is the hope of the society that the other legal issues raised by the society will, therefore, be taken into account following the commitments Parliament has made to the society in writing,” Ngunde said
Lac Chairperson Peter Dimba said they were happy with the ruling.
He said what has happened shows that the Judiciary wants resource-constrained and other vulnerable people to enjoy unhindered access to justice.
“Of course, the court application did not stop us from continuing with the exercise of seeking views on the issue of paralegals. As at now, we are at a stage where we are consolidating all the views into a report. Once we are done, we will be taking the report to Parliament to be adopted,” Dimba said.
MLS wanted the court to determine whether the respondents have correctly appreciated and discharged their duties, under Standing Order 159, in deciding to receive a referral from the Legal Aid Bureau and purporting to institute and conduct public hearings across the country, soliciting public views on a proposal by the Legal Aid Bureau.