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Parliament takes on judicial commission

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Patrick Mpaka

Two months after members of Parliament (MPs) debated a ruling of the Commercial Division of the High Court on the sale of a gas station in Lilongwe and resolved to summon the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament is this week holding a series of meetings focusing on the functionality of the commission.

Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament Chairperson Peter Dimba confirmed the development Monday, saying discussions will be held with JSC and Malawi Law Society (MLS) members.

He, however, said the discussions will focus on the administration of justice in general.

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“This week, we, as Legal Affairs Committee, will be interfacing with a number of stakeholders involved in the administration of the law including the Judicial Service Commission and MLS. Our meeting will not really be about the functionality of the JSC but a number of issues pertaining to access to justice in general. This is not a special meeting because, from time to time, we, as Legal Affairs Committee, are mandated by the Constitution and the Standing Orders to provide oversight to institutions in the judicial sector and ensure that the revered altar of justice remains undefiled for the benefit of the public.

“Our interaction with the JSC will also touch on that plenary resolution but our approach will be comprehensive as that incident at the Commercial Court [sale of gas station] could just be a tip of the iceberg. The committee will hold these meetings in camera,” he said.

But an invitation letter to MLS, signed for the Clerk of Parliament by J.L Mwenyeheli on October 3 2022, singles out the functionality of the JSC as one of the issues to be discussed.

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“I have the honour to inform you that the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs is scheduled to meet at Parliament Building in Lilongwe from 10th to 21 October 2022 and, during the meeting, the committee will, among other [thing]s, look into the functionality of the Judicial Service Commission in the country.

“In view of the above, you are kindly invited to the meeting and requested to present to the committee issues that border on the functionality of the Judicial Service Commission,” the letter reads.

MLS President Patrick Mpaka confirmed that the society has been invited to the meeting today, Tuesday, but said the committee was better placed to comment on its agenda, saying it has been convened by Parliament.

On August 4 2022, MPs expressed worry over the manner in which some officials of the courts in the country, including judges, are discharging their duties and resolved to summon JSC to which they are expected to express their grievances.

The concerns came up as members deliberated on circumstances surrounding the sale of one of the gas stations in Lilongwe, which was done following a court judgement.

Earlier this month, Chief Justice Rizine Mzikamanda said recent changes at the Lilongwe Commercial Division of the High Court are one way of addressing concerns that people have lodged over adjudication of cases at the registry.

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