Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (Chreea) plans to join a case in which Malawi Law Society (MLS) is challenging the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament’s push to amend the Legal Aid Bureau Act.
The law society applied for leave for a judicial review of the Legal Affairs Committee’s decision to receive a proposal on the amendment of the Legal Aid Bureau Act and hold public hearings nationwide to get views on the proposal for amendment.
The High Court of Malawi will decide on the application on October 7 2021 and Chreaa executive director Victor Mhango said in an interview yesterday that his organisation will join the case with the backing of several civil society organisations (CSOs).
He said Chreaa is already working on documents of the case and will soon file in court and the court will have to make a decision on that.
“We have in-house lawyers who are working on that. Our interest is on vulnerable people’s access to justice,” said Mhango.
He further said Chreaa works with vulnerable groups; hence, appreciates challenges they go through in accessing justice due to lack of legal representation.
Mhango said allowing paralegals to represent people in lower courts would promote access to justice.
Youth and Society executive director Charles Kajoloweka confirmed that CSOs are in support of the decision by Chreaa to join the case.
Meanwhile, Parliament has said the Legal Affairs Committee has concluded public hearings on various issues concerning access to justice brought to the attention of the committee by the Legal Aid Bureau.
A statement issued by Parliament yesterday indicate that the committee will also engage ministries of Justice and Finance as key stakeholders on the issues raised by the bureau.
“Thereafter, the committee will prepare a report which will be presented in the National Assembly in accordance with Standing Order 185.
“Further, in accordance with Standing Order 186(1), if the committee’s report is adopted by the National Assembly, the Clerk of Parliament will transmit the decision of the National Assembly to the appropriate Ministry or Government Agency which shall then deliver a written response to the National Assembly within 14 days,” reads the statement.
However, Parliament says members of the public may still make written submissions concerning the matter and the submissions should be sent to the office of the Clerk of Parliament by October 15 2021.
MLS is against the proposed amendment of the Legal Aid Bureau Act to allow paralegals limited space to represent people in lower courts.
MLS feels the move will compromise standards and affect justice and further says there should be other alternatives to promote access to legal representation.