There are four types of subordinate courts namely: Industrial Relations Court, Magistrate Courts, Child Justice Courts and Local Courts.
Industrial Relations Court
The Industrial Relations Court (IRC) is established under Section 110 of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi and the jurisdiction, composition and structure of this court is provided for in the Labour Relations Act, 1996 (Cap 54:01). The IRC has original jurisdiction over labour disputes and other issues relating to employment, but has no jurisdiction over any persons employed in the Malawi Prison Services, Malawi Police Service and the Malawi Defence Force. The IRC has three registries: The Principal Registry in Blantyre; Lilongwe Registry and Mzuzu Registry
The IRC is a tripartite court and as such it has representatives of the most representative organisation or organisations of employers, such as Employers Association of Malawi (ECAM) and representatives of the most representative trade union or trade unions, such as the Malawi Congress of Trade of Unions (MCTU), who sit in court representing the employers and employees respectively. It currently has 20 panellists, 10 of which represent employers, while 10 represent employees
Magistrate Courts are established under section 110 of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi as read with Section 33 of the Courts Act. The Courts Act provides for the structure, functions and powers of Magistrate Courts. They are presided over by professional magistrates and lay magistrates. Professional magistrates are those magistrates who are either qualified as legal practitioners or are entitled to be admitted as legal practitioners. Magistrate Courts that are presided over by professional magistrates are called Resident Magistrate Courts and they are structured at different levels
The organizational structure of magistrates is as follows: Chief Resident Magistrates, who head the magistracy in each of the judicial regions; Principal Resident Magistrates; Senior Resident Magistrates; Resident Magistrates; First Grade Magistrates; Second Grade Magistrates; Third Grade Magistrates and Fourth Grade Magistrates. The graded magistrates are referred to as lay magistrates under the Constitution. Magistrate courts have limited jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, as prescribed by law from time to time
Child Justice Court
The Child Justice Court is established under section 132 of the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act (Cap. 26:03). The Child Justice Court, which has original jurisdiction over child related matters, or such other matters as may be prescribed by law, is subordinate to the High Court
Grade Magistrates or lower ranking magistrates as may be designated by the Chief Justice from time to time, and such designation must be gazetted. The Child Justice Court, although presided over by magistrates, is separate and independent of the general magistrate courts.
Section 110(3) of the Constitution provides for the establishment of local courts. Such courts have since been established under Section 4 of the Local Courts Act of 2011, and they are subordinate to the High Court. The Judiciary is in the process of operationalizing local courts on a phased basis
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