Some law diploma holders in the country have petitioned the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament to push for the amendment of Legal Education and Legal Practioners Act to allow them represent people in lower courts.
The law diploma holders, in their petition dated September 11 2021 signed by 15 members, say the Act is one of the factors that are contributing to challenges in access to legal representation.
They argue if they are allowed to represent people in court, it will help promote access to legal representation for vulnerable people.
Reads the petition in part: “To put our grievances in perspective, we, the diploma in law holders, do not understand the reasons why we are not allowed to defend cases while most prosecutors who do not have law qualifications are allowed to prosecute and are doing a commendable job.
“Therefore, we request that your committee should facilitate the amendment of Section 11 of Legal Education and Legal Practioners Act to allow the diploma in law holders from recognised institutions of higher learning to have audience before the subordinate courts.”
In an interview on Sunday, Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament chairperson Peter Dimba acknowledged receipt of the petition.
He said the committee will solicit views from several stakeholders and come up with a report which will be presented to Parliament during the November sitting.
“This is almost similar to the proposal that the Legal Aid Bureau already made before our committee which we have been consulting on over the past three weeks.
“The proposal has received overwhelming positive response from all the stakeholders except Malawi Law Society,” he said.
Dimba added that debate on the issue must be promoted.
“There is need to look at the issue of access to justice comprehensively, that is, including delayed judgements by magistrates and judges,” he said.
The diploma holders’ proposal comes at a time the Legal Aid Bureau is pushing to have the Legal Aid Bureau Act amended to allow paralegals represent people in lower courts.
Various stakeholders, including the Judiciary, Malawi Human Rights Commission, Prisons Inspectorate, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, have supported the amendment of the Legal Aid Bureau Act to ensure that vulnerable people have access to legal representation. They argue the move will help promote justice for the poor.