Coronavirus: Malawi Judiciary encourages out of court settlements


… Some court proceedings to be held via video conferencing

The Judiciary has encouraged parties involved in various court cases to settle matters outside the courts due to the threat of the coronavirus in Malawi.

Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda said this in a statement on Friday in which he stated the measures the Judiciary has taken following the declaration of a State of Disaster over coronavirus by President Peter Mutharika last week.

Nyirenda noted that it remains essential and in the public interest that the Judiciary should continue to administer justice during this period but he also warned that the public health threat posed by coronavirus calls for measures to adjust the operations and processes of the Judiciary.

He said the Judiciary’s policy during the period of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic is to generally slowdown on all non-urgent court matters.

“In this regard, parties to cases are encouraged, wherever possible, to agree outside court on adjournments (postponement) of non-urgent matters. Parties are also encouraged to, wherever possible, settle matters outside court and at mediation stage, especially with regard to unopposed, non-contentious or less contentious matters,” he said.

He added that Judges, Registrars, Chairpersons, Magistrates and Researchers at the courts will review their hearing case lists and adjourn non-urgent matters in order to reduce the potential for crowding at the court premises.

According to Nyirenda, all cases, including Chamber matters, shall be held in open courtrooms but only court officers who will facilitate the proceedings, legal practitioners, prosecutors, litigants, social workers, witnesses, accused persons and security personnel shall be permitted to enter the court.

“In exceptional cases, Registrars or the responsible Magistrate shall allow only a limited number of spectator members of the public, including relatives of litigants, into the open Court gallery.

“In making such decision, the Registrars or the responsible Magistrate shall have regard to the social distancing measures of at least one metre apart and advisedly two metres apart,” he said.

Nyirenda in his statement also advised courts to, wherever practicable and subject to law, conduct proceedings by teleconference or video conference upon arrangement between the parties and the responsible Judicial Officer.

Among other measures to prevent spread of the coronavirus, the Judiciary has banned all Judiciary conferences and workshops, and has suspended all non-essential official travel within and outside Malawi.

In order to maintain social distancing in all court premises, all persons within the court premises will be required to keep a distance of at least one metre apart and this will be enforced by Judiciary Security and Court Marshalls.

Malawi is yet to record a cases of the Covid-19 which has hit 199 countries across the world with more than 590,000 cases and over 27,000 deaths being recorded.