Commercial Court reaping rewards from World Bank partnership

Justice John Katsala

The Commercial Court is having a fruitful partnership with the World Bank which has seen the judicial organ benefiting in a number of ways.

Having opened its doors in the country’s commercial capital, Blantyre, 10 years ago, success of some of its major projects is owed to World Bank’s assistance.

The financial institution makes itself available in the nick of time, to help the court defeat some of its challenges.

During journalists’ tour of the court in Blantyre on 21st April as part of a World Bank two-day workshop, the media was enlightened on the court’s operations and forces behind some of its major projects.

The trip also gave the media an insight into aims and objectives of the court.

The judge in charge, Justice John Katsala, clarified that the commercial court is aimed at dispensing justice with speed to avoid disturbing commercial activities.

Justice John Katsala
Justice John Katsala (In jacket) during the interface with the media.

“The Commercial Court has managed to reduce the time taken to conclude commercial disputes from an average of 350 days to an average of just 97 days,” said Katsala.

The high court arm has managed to increase the speed taken to solve commercial disputes to 72%. This, Judge Katsala said, is healthy to business in the country.

“Whenever there is a commercial dispute, money is locked until it is solved. Therefore speed in solving the case is good because concerned parties’ operations are not put to a standstill.”

According to the judge, World Bank plays a pivotal role in their operations. With good cooperation the court scored highly on all World Bank locally funded projects after achieving its desired results in good time.

Since the partnerships started, the bank has assisted the court in capacity building and publication of law reports among the major initiatives, with the government also facilitating other projects.

“The World Bank paid rentals for the Commercial Court for 2 years in Mpico House, formerly MDC House, it funded the publication of previous series of Commercial Law Reports and is currently funding a further series yet to be published. It funded the training of judges by sending them to Tanzania, Zambia, UK, and USA to learn how they run commercial courts and to be trained in mediation, and it also funded the training of magistrates locally, in the best practices of handling commercial matters,” he said.

Besides the smooth running in some of its projects, the commercial court has not been spared from challenges.

The main challenge it faces is lack of adequate funding since it has a number of projects to carry out.

The judiciary gets K7 billion from government annually, which the judge stressed is not enough hence saluting the World Bank for funding some of its projects.

Other challenges include having few judges and counter-productive forces which delay conclusion of some cases with the planned time.

The Commercial Court started its operations on 14th May, 2007 in Blantyre and April, 2010 in Lilongwe. There are plans to have a registry in Mzuzu but that may take time owing to their main challenge of inadequate funding.