Malawi Law Society (MLS) Mzuzu Chapter has petitioned the Chief Justice to deploy two more judges at the High Court in Mzuzu to speed up justice delivery.
The High Court in Mzuzu has a single judge, Dingiswayo Madise.
Yesterday, about 20 lawyers descended on the High Court in Mzuzu and delivered the petition through Madise. They have given authorities 21 days to meet their demands or risk unspecified action.
The petition has been signed by 11 law firms, but the court caters for 14 law firms in Mzuzu and others in the Northern Region besides handling cases from Central and Southern regions.
In the petition, the lawyers argue that understaffing is depriving a number of people access to justice as cases drag at the court. They said while Madise is working hard, they observe that he is overwhelmed by the growing demand for justice which sees judgements being delayed.
Apart from the High Court cases, Madise also attends to administrative issues, plays a supervisory role for 40 magistrates, attends to all confirmation cases coming from the magistrates, deals with appeals from lower courts and checks public officers in discharging of their duties for compliance with the Constitution.
MLS Mzuzu Chapter president Victor Gondwe said government risks being sued and the action is viable as lawyers will be fighting for people’s rights.
Madise said Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda asked that the petition be faxed the same day as there was also a Judicial Service Commission meeting in progress.
Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula yesterday said there is shortage of judges in the country and the Judiciary cannot manage to have three judges in Mzuzu at present. However, he said efforts are being made to deploy another judge to Mzuzu.
Two is the maximum number of judges the High Court in Mzuzu has ever had.
Madise became the sole judge in the region following the promotion of his colleague, Lovemore Chikopa, to the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal based in Blantyre. Judge Redson Kapindu was later deployed to Mzuzu in 2014, but only served for six months.
Kapindu was replaced by Godfrey Mwase who died barely three months after being deployed and no replacement has been done.
Malawi has 34 judges of which 12 belong to the Supreme Court of Appeal and 22 to the High Court. Of the High Court judges, Mzuzu has one, Blantyre 10, Lilongwe seven and Zomba two.