Judges risk discipline for failing to deliver judgments on outstanding cases on time some of which have kept litigants waiting for justice for more than a decade.
Registrar of the High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal Agnes Patemba yesterday said the development follows a concern Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda raised on delayed delivery of judgments during a two-day judges’ meeting in Mangochi last week.
She said the Chief Justice took the concerns raised by the court users over overdue rulings seriously and directed all judges to finalise their outstanding judgements by September this year failing which action would be taken on them.
“Judges agreed to clear outstanding judgments by September. If some judges will not be done with outstanding judgements by then, they will appear before Judicial Service Commission,” explained Patemba.
Over the years, court users have been complaining of lengthy period the courts take to have their matters resolved due to various factors such as procedures and undue delays by judges to deliver judgments.
During the judges’ meeting, Patemba said, the Judiciary also agreed to deal with members of staff who engage in corruption such as getting paid by some errant lawyers to misplace or trash certain court files to thwart case proceedings.
However, the registrar could not articulate what action the meeting agreed to take on lawyers, saying “disciplining of lawyers is done by the Solicitor General”.
Commenting on the issue, human rights campaigner Robert Mkwezalamba said it said was high time the Judiciary had a disciplinary code in place and started bringing to book all judges who delay to deliver justice.
“The Judiciary should enforce discipline among the judges. Justice delayed is justice denied and it does not make sense that the judges should be the ones denying justice by sitting on judgements for several years,” he said.
The revelations of corrupt practices in the country’s courts sent tongues wagging with the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the Malawi Law Society (MLS), which regulates the legal profession, warning the crooked legal practitioners to stop the unbecoming behaviour or face t the law.
Solicitor General Janet Banda, who is also Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Principal Secretary, was not available yesterday for comment but the ministry’s spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala told The Nation two weeks ago that lawyers engaging in clandestine dealings would face the wrath of the law.
He said the office of the DPP was taking seriously the complaints of endemic corruption and unprofessionalism in the legal system as raised by Justice Esmie Chombo, Judge President for Lilongwe High Court Registry.
In her letter dated January 18 2018, Chombo said she had been informed that some lawyers were paying court staff to misplace or destroy court files so as to frustrate case proceedings. n