Stakeholders punch holes in judicial service draft bills

Stakeholders continue punching holes in the Constitution Bill 2023 and Judicial Service Administration Bill 2023 indicating that more needs to be done to have the two documents water tight before tabling next year. The stakeholders, who included organisers of the consultations, Malawi Law Society, argued that the draft bills which the Ministry of Justice…

Stakeholders continue punching holes in the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2023 and Judicial Service Administration Bill 2023 (JSA) indicating that more needs to be done to have the two documents water tight before tabling next year.

At a consultative meeting in Mzuzu on Friday, stakeholders among others suggested that appointment of judges should not be secretive and that composition of the Judicial Service Commission should be redrafted to be inclusive.

The stakeholders, who included organisers of the consultations, Malawi Law Society (MLS), argued that the draft bills which the Ministry of Justice intends to take to Parliament for approval early next year needs to be fine-tuned.

In an interview MLS Vice President Tusume Mwabungulu said the input that they have been getting from stakeholders from Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu are substantial.

“Malawi Law Society’s take, which is also prevalent with those of other stakeholders that we have interacted with, is that we need an elaborate and comprehensive legislation.

“There are gaps that we have noted that need to be filled in terms of giving details. Let’s say for instance the appointment and disciplining of judges is not clearly spelt out. What the Act has envisaged, the Judicial Service Administration Bill, is that rules will be made in that regard but what we are saying is that let’s have the rules now,” he said.

Representing civil society organisations, Youth and Society (Yas) Executive Director Charles Kajoloweka said they have serious reservations that need scrutiny including the composition of the Judicial Service Commission.

Kajoloweka said the composition of the commission is “legal heavy”, suggesting that there is a need for diversity of professionals.

“While there is a proposition in the bill to have lay people in the commission, we feel they are in adequate… We need to reform how judges are appointed in this country to ensure that the process is open, competitive and efficient to get the best men and women of the bench,” he said.

The Judicial Service Administration Bill is proposing that the commission should have two lay people.

It seeks to repeal and replace the Judicature Administration Act in order to provide a new legal framework that will help improve the general administration of judicial service, recruitment, promotion, discipline and removal from office of judicial officers.

On the other hand the Constitution (Amendment) Bill seeks to provide for establishment of judicial service and composition of the judicial service commission among others.