Some critics have questioned President Peter Mutharika’s appointment of Judge Lloyd Muhara as Deputy Chief Secretary to Government at a time the Judiciary is facing a shortage of judges.
Mutharika appointed the High Court judge on Wednesday, two years after he joined the bench, to fill the vacancy at the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) following the death of former holder Willie Samute mid last year.
But some commentators have expressed concern with the appointment of Muhara, arguing “the equation is not balancing” considering the current situation.
Muhara’s appointment means the Judiciary now remains with 30 judges comprising eight for principal registry in Blantyre, seven for Lilongwe registry and nine Justices of Appeal.
Three judges are attached to the commercial division while Zomba and Mzuzu registries have two and one each, respectively. But Mzuzu also has one visiting judge.
Ordinarily, the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal is supposed to have a minimum of 40 judges, according to Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula.
In May last year, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu told a United Nations Summit in Gevena, Switzerland when he presented the country’s Universal Periodic Review National Report Second Cycle, government’s intention was to have 40 judges.
The Malawi Law Society (MLS) said it was concerned that the President was taking away from the already few judges instead of appointing more.
“As a society, we were expecting the President to appoint new judges because we have a shortage of judges. Actually, we have appointments. Perhaps, the Head of State, after that appointment, will proceed to appoint more new judges,” said MLS president John Suzi-Banda, in an interview yesterday.been lobbying for those
Private practice lawyer Mandala Mambulasa wondered whether Mutharika made the right move by appointing Muhara when there is already a shortage of judges.
In his post on his Facebook page, he questioned: “Without appointing more judges, is it fine to appoint another judge to another arm of government?”
But, while wishing Muhara well, Mvula observed that his absence would create a caseload.
He said: “We have a shortage of judges at the moment and his moving away will further reduce the number of judges, which would cause a caseload as other judges will have to take over his cases. But we just hope the appointing authority will consider appointing new judges as soon as possible to ensure the citizenry continues accessing justice at all cost.”
Meanwhile, it remains vague whether the judge has gone to OPC on secondment or permanently.
When contacted yesterday, Muhara asked The Nation to call him next week for detailed information.
However, Mvula said the judge has not been told yet whether he was on secondment or permanent employment.
“Other than the appointment, he has not yet been told by the appointing authority whether he will be there on secondment or permanently,” he said.
President Mutharika is mandated by Section 119 (7) of the Constitution to assign a judge, with the consent of the person, to any other public office for such period as he may determine.
Further, the section stipulates that during the time, the person may cease to perform the duties of his or her office as a judge, but that assignment shall not be regarded as removal from being a judge.