The Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale has observed that while the Constitution provides for separation of powers, the sovereignty of the Judiciary is at times overemphasised.
Kaphale said the overstating has to some extent resulted in the Judiciary’s accountability and transparency being made immaterial.
The AG made the observation yesterday during an official launch of the Case Management System (CMS) adopted by the Judiciary and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).
The European Union (EU) funded the newly-introduced CMS project which introduces an automation on the registration and tracking of cases.
“Although the Malawi Constitution adopts separation of powers, sometimes judicial independence has been overemphasised to the point that accountability and transparency have been rendered irrelevant, that is wrong,” said Kaphale.
He said even the Constitution provides that the authority to exercise State power depends on sustaining people’s trust through open, accountable and transparent government and an informed democratic choice.
“But where accountability and transparency are missing, people tend to lose the confidence in the judicial system,” he said.
Kaphale then described the new system as an important milestone in government’s on-going efforts to reform the justice sector and strengthen the rule of law in the country.
He said CMS was unique in the justice sector that would make the Judiciary, as an arm of government, be more transparent and accountable to citizens.
“Complaints about delays in concluding matters are many and it is my sincere hope that this system will help to expedite dispensing justice timely,” said Kaphale.
But chief justice Andrew Nyirenda reaffirmed that the Judiciary will remain steadfastly committed to its overall responsibility of interpreting, protecting and enforcing the Constitution and all laws.
“Our efforts are ceaselessly focused on providing an effective judicial system that earns respect and trust of the society.
“We will strive to be a Judiciary whose independence and impartiality are beyond doubt, with high standards of adjudication and accountability,” said the chief justice.
But Nyirenda said this could only be achieved if judicial officers transform the manner in which they have been operating and the CMS system was a tool towards that transformation.
“What we have achieved is a milestone in the history of Malawi Judiciary. It is a pillar to an efficient Judiciary,” he said.
The system, which links the Judiciary and office of DPP, was financed by the EU to the tune of 1.5 million euros (K1.2 billion) as part of the Democratic Governance Programme (DGP).
EU head of delegation to Malawi, Marchel Gerrmann said the CMS was a key element of good governance and prerequisite for inclusive development.
He said countries that follow the tenets of access to justice and rule of law have consolidated their democracies and hoped the system will facilitate speedy access to justice and minimise loss of important court records as was the case previously.
“In any jurisdiction, a well functioning justice system is a key factor for upholding accountability and improved service delivery,” he said.
He also urged government to consider linking the system to the Malawi Police Service as well as Malawi Prisons Service for an improved management.
Among others, the system will be responsible for allocating and scheduling of cases to judges. In turn, the system will show effectiveness of the judges in handling their cases.
Few months ago, some lawyers quizzed the Judiciary on the practicality and effectiveness of the system, wondering whether the sharing of information between the Judiciary and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions would not be misconstrued as collusion aimed at diverting the course of justice to the disadvantage of the accused. n