Summary of the Keynote Speech by the Honourable the Chief Justice Andrew K.C. Nyirenda SC during the Induction Seminar of Newly Appointed Justices of Appeal and High Court Judges Held at Salima from 23rd to 26th November, 2020
In his remarks at the induction seminar for newly appointed Justices of Appeal and Judges of the High Court, the Honourable the Chief Justice Andrew K.C. Nyirenda SC began by congratulating their Ladyships and Lordships on their well-earned appointment as Justices of Appeal and Judges of the High Court. He wished them the very best and God’s guidance in their new capacity. The Honourable the Chief Justice spoke on the subject of “The role of a Judicial Officer in a constitutional democracy”.
In summary, he reminded their Ladyships and Lordships that the role of Judicial Officers or indeed judicial power is not self-defining. That their role and power is created or conferred by the will of the people expressed in the Republican Constitution and Acts of Parliament. That when it comes to defining the responsibility of a Judicial Officer in a Constitutional democracy, the dictates of Section 9 of the Malawi Republican Constitution are instructive.
His Lordship went on to state that in performing the heavy and solemn responsibility of judicial office, Judicial Officers must remain independent of any influence or pressure from the Executive, from parties to litigation and from different circles of society.
He told their Ladyships and Lordships that as they go about making judicial pronouncements, some of their decisions will occasionally engender polite or sometimes brutal attacks from different sectors of the public. That as Judicial Officers, they will encounter situations where a case listed before them will call for a hard or an unpopular decision but that they will have to invariably bear in mind that populism and judging are two contradictions. That their responsibility is to be faithful to their judicial oath and to the rule of law as their role is to give effect to the deep values and the will of the people as expressed in the Republican Constitution and Acts of Parliament.
He underscored the duty to account as another critical limb of the role of a Judicial Officer in a constitutional democracy. He stated that in order to account to the parties, and to enable them to assess whether to appeal where appropriate, judgments must address the issues, they must explain to the parties why Judicial Officers have come to the conclusions they have on fact and law. That as Judicial Officers they must at all costs steer clear of judgments that lack structure or contain unwarranted complexity. They must also aim at, and succeed in, avoiding delay. That delay, at any level of a court system, kills memory and destroys touch, it makes the ultimate task of deciding and writing judgments much more difficult. That they must remember that there may be persons other than the parties who may be concerned in or affected by court decisions and reasons.
The Honourable the Chief Justice also spoke on the notorious subject of judicial corruption. He stated that Malawi cannot expect to make any gains in the war against corruption if the Judiciary takes a passive role in eradicating the scourge within its ranks. He lamented that given the responsibilities and expectations reposed on a judicial officer, for any judiciary to be associated with corrupt practices is a serious tragedy. That when the hunters become the hunted, there will be nothing left for this great nation. That when judicial officers become slaves and captives of corruption, the survival of human rights, the rule of law and the development agenda of Malawi, will all have been compromised, with unbearable consequences to the citizen.
The Honourable the Chief Justice concluded his remarks with a few words of guidance. He told their Ladyships and Lordships that the judicial task in modern society is demanding and relentless. That the road to success on the Bench is characterised by hard work with considerable work outside sitting times. That the legislature and the courts are always pronouncing new law and for that reason they should try to read as much as they can and to remain scholars to the extent that time allows as this is bound to make them better Judicial Officers and help them enjoy being Judicial Officers. He further advised that as Judicial Officers, they should lack any traces of arrogance, but show intellectual humility. That they must be ready to admit errors in that the strength of their judgments lies in their ability to be self-critical and to admit errors in the appropriate instances.
He emphasised to their Ladyships and Lordships that they must always think of themselves, not as persons of power, but as servants of the public in the highest and most honourable sense of that term.
Finally, the Honourable the Chief Justice rendered his sincere acknowledgement to the Chairperson of the Judicial Training Committee, Honourable Justice Professor Redson Kapindu and his team, for working very hard in making preparations for the induction seminar and for putting up an elaborate programme.