- Why should judgment take five years to deliver?
- Chief Justice appreciates concern
The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has challenged judges in the country to stop creating excuses for delays in delivering judgments, arguing that the practice threatens the long-term legitimacy and efficacy of the institution.
MLS president John Suzi-Banda, speaking on Friday in Blantyre at the Sherry Party (commencement of the Michaelmas session), bemoaned the delays, which he observed were heavily impacting on litigants.
The lawyers’ concerns somehow bear testimony to a recent report by High Court Judge Dorothy Kamanga, which according to an investigative report published in yesterday’s Weekend Nation, has attributed increased congestion in prisons to Judiciary’s failure to review thousands of sentences meted out by lower courts.
On the concerns by the lawyers, Suzi-Banda said: “While we remain alive to the challenges of adequately resourcing the Judiciary to enable it to fulfil its constitutional mandate, it is becoming increasingly difficult to excuse the delays in delivery of rulings and judgments and in the general dispensation of justice in this country.”
He said it was high time the judicial officers stopped finding “false comfort in the apparent helplessness” of court users.
Further, the lawyers’ president questioned why judges, who take ages to deliver their judgments, should still be identified as such and continue serving the Judiciary.
“Shouldn’t we then be asking ourselves whether a judge, who for no good cause at all, fails to deliver judgments for five years should still be a judge?” wondered Suzi-Banda.
He said it made no sense for MLS to be collecting lists of outstanding judgments and rulings from its members and submit them to the Chief Justice for him to implore a judge to do what he or she took oath for.
“I am certain that this is not the legacy that our judges would want to bequeath to the unborn,” he said.
In the same spirit, Suzi-Banda advised his fellow lawyers to be exemplary and maintain their fidelity to the profession values, saying holding public and constitutional offices should not be an end in itself.
“Let us have the courage to demand that those among us, be they private practice lawyers or judicial officers, who repeatedly and with careless abandon default the principles that guide us as a profession, should be shown the exit door,” he said.
In his response to Suzi-Banda’s sentiments, Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda said there was togetherness of thought on recurrent and topical issues surrounding the legal profession.
“I can assure the president of the Malawi Law Society that we have taken count of every issue that he has brought up,” said Nyirenda.
He acknowledged that case backlog was a perennial problem, but the picture was not as gloomy as portrayed by the media, though there was room for improvement on disposal of outstanding cases and judgments.
Nyirenda said the judiciary was taking stock of the outstanding cases to determine active ones and will be strict about neglected and abandoned cases.
He also said the position at the Supreme Court was more than satisfactory and he was certain that by end of the year, no judgment would have been outstanding for more than three months at the court.