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Ombudsman faults Judiciary

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The office of the Ombudsman has directed the Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court to demonstrate, through a write up, the administrative systemic changes within the judicial system to protect court users more especially in remote areas from judicial officers who demand money to hear cases.

The directive is contained in the determination of a case in which a Balaka-based man, Samson Makombe, lodged a complaint against court clerks and a magistrate stationed at Banda magistrate’s court, accusing the officers of demanding money to hear his case and enforce the subsequent judgement.

According to a copy of determination dated June 13 2016, instead of court officers assisting Makombe they added distress to him by demanding money to hear the case and continued to do so after the judgement.

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Ombudsman Martha Chizuma- Mwangonde has described the case in question as a typical case that echoes the general discontent among the general populace that justice system in the country only favours the rich.

“I am aware that the judiciary does a lot of good work in dispensing justice. But I cannot ignore the fact that there are these kind of injustices perpetrated on the poor people by the judicial system more especially by courts in the remote areas.

“To this end I direct that the Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court should within 30 days from the date of this determination demonstrate to me, by way of write up, the administrative systemic changes within the judicial system that they intend to effect or they are already applying especially in the courts that are within remote areas to protect people like the complainant herein from this kind of abuse by his officers,” the determination reads.

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Apart from sending an apology to the complainant, the Judiciary has been directed to take disciplinary action against Patrick Banda and a Mr Tamani, who are court clerks at Banda Magistrate’s court, for extortion and failure to discharge their duties professionally.

The Judiciary has also been ordered to pay Makombe K54,000 being the balance on the judgement debt and also pay K135,000 that the complainant has spent in trying to have his judgement enforced.

Judiciary spokesperson, Mlenga Mvula, said the Judiciary condemns any form of malpractice among its officers and members of staff and some officers who were found guilty of similar offences have been dismissed.

“Just after the Chief Justice, Andrew Nyirenda, assumed office, he issued a stern warning against soliciting bribes from court users or abusing court users in any way. He even told all officers to exercise impartiality in the process of executing duties.

“People look up to the courts for justice and they trust the Judiciary. So, if the officers are involved in such malpractices that will definitely erode the confidence people have in courts and that cannot be tolerated,” Mvula said.

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