Members of Parliament (MPs) Thursday expressed worry with the manner in which some officials of the courts in the country including judges are discharging their duties and resolved to summon the Judicial Service Commission to whom they are expected to express their grievances.
The concerns came up as members deliberated the circumstances surrounding the sale of one of the gas stations in Lilongwe, which was done following a court judgement.
While some MPs suggested that judges should be summoned to the House to respond to queries, Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda said there was need to respect the separation of powers existing between the two arms of government as provided for in the country’s Constitution.
“As a House, we should tread carefully on how we want to question and intervene on issues happening in the other arm of government, in this case the Judiciary.
“Standing Orders are not above the Constitution. The Constitution is above any document and there is separation of powers and that separation of powers demands that we respect the Judiciary,” Chimwendo Banda said.
But moving the motion, MP for Rumphi East Constituency Kamlepo Kalua alleged that there seems to be a cartel within the Judiciary that disadvantages locals especially those owning businesses and that there is need for an independent inquiry into the competence and interests of some men and women of the bench.
He, therefore, challenged that the MPs feel duty bound to protect the interests of Malawians.
“We do not want any impunity in our Judiciary; the injustice that is being meted on our people is something that as a House we cannot condone. It is high time we, as a Parliament, offered checks and balances to the Judiciary,” Kalua said.
He added: “For the first time, we have seen Malawians demonstrating against courts in this country; that should tell you that something is wrong. And we as MPs will not relent; we will not allow few judicial officials disfranchise our people.”
Contributing to the motion, MP for Mzimba North Constituency Yeremiya Chihana claimed that there is a system’s failure in the Judiciary which needs urgent attention by relevant authorities.
On his part, Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo said the Constitution mandates the Judicial Service Commission to preside over professional failures of judges and magistrates and not Parliament.
“There are several ways that a decision of the court that does not satisfy a section of the society might have been reached at. It could be due to procedural lapses in presenting a case or erroneous filing of documents, just to mention a few,” Mvalo.
Chairperson for the Legal Affairs Committee Peter Dimba said his committee has for a long time failed to execute its oversight role over Parliament and that it has received complaints about decisions and the conduct of some judges.
“In terms of the matter being discussed, we do not have the power to inquire into the competence or conduct of judges, but Standing Order 59 gives this House, through the Legal Affairs Committee, power to provide oversight to the Judiciary through JSC.
Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal, Kondwani Banda, refused to comment on the matter “to avoid prejudicing a matter which he said is before the courts, a context within which Parliament made its deliberations”.