Lawyers plan demos over Judiciary Bills

Lawyers plan demos over Judiciary Bills

Frustrated by continued delays to table the Judicial Service Administration Bill 2023 (JSA) and the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2023 in Parliament, lawyers plan to stage demonstrations to push authorities to expedite the process.

The lawyers argue that the Ministry of Justice, as a policy holder, is purposely not taking hold of the task by, among others, not calling for a consultative meeting with key stakeholders in accordance with its roadmap adopted in November last year.

The proposal to hold demonstrations has surfaced after the Malawi Law Society (MLS) revived its advocacy initiatives to ensure the draft bills are introduced in Parliament during the July 2024 sitting.

Mhone (C) interacts with some of the lawyers after the meeting

The advocacy initiatives commenced on May 6 2024 in Lilongwe and the society and the MLS-Judicial Service Commission Bill (MLS-JSC) Advisory Team have met representatives of civil society organisations and selected lawyers from MLS Southern and Central region chapters.

During a meeting held on Friday in Blantyre, legal practitioners agreed to organise demonstrations against the ministry to force it to take the draft Bills through the processes, including introducing them in Parliament through a Private Member’s Bill.

The issue of the law society holding demonstrations was also highly recommended during the society’s meeting with its Central Region Chapter members in Lilongwe on May 6.

In an interview after the meeting, lawyer Alfred Majamanda said: “We do hope this will assist to have the Bill passed in Parliament and, as per the suggestion, it’s high time there is a serious push of office holders so that the bills are taken to Parliament and passed into laws.”

The former MLS president said the Bills were crucial as they highlight matters of constitutionalism and other necessary requirements in the country’s justice delivery system.

MLS-JSC Bill Advisory Team chairperson Raphael Mhone said the lawyers believe demonstrating together with the public would show the seriousness with which they are taking the matter.

He said: “This is the strongest proposal from the members. But we will have to consolidate as one society before we can actualise this particular proposal.”

However, he hinted that the issue of demonstrations was just a proposal as there are other procedures before an action is taken.

Mhone, who is leading a team of 14 lawyers, hinted that the Judicial Service Administration Bill 2023 was extremely crucial as it will enhance constitutional provisions.

On his part, MLS president Patrick Mpaka said the key missing issue was the failure by the ministry to bring key stakeholders (Judiciary and MLS) together and go through the Bills before agreeing on one thing.

He said: “The ministry has been able to meet the stakeholders separately but has not managed to bring us together and come to one point. So we have revived the advocacy initiatives to keep the momentum towards the July sitting of Parliament”.

But Ministry of Justice public relations officer Frank Namangale promised in an interview yesterday the Bills would be presented to Parliament during the July sitting “with or without the law society protests.”

He said: “The ministry follows procedures and cannot be intimidated by threats of protests by anyone, let alone the Malawi Law Society whose executive is aware of the process and the stage we are at the moment.

“The Malawi Law Society knows that we were waiting for feedback from the Judiciary. A Bill that concerns the Judiciary cannot go to Parliament without hearing views of the Judiciary.”

MLS embarked on public consultations on the Bills in December last year and the ministry failed to table the Bills in Parliament during the November 2023 sitting before pushing to the February budget meeting.

Among others, the JSA Bill has provisions that would promote transparency and accountability in the appointment, execution of duties, transfer, discipline and removal of judicial officers and funding of the JSC without interfering with the constitutionally entrenched independence of the Judiciary.

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