In bid to move with times, Malawi, a former British colony has scraped off court procedures and rules that were drawn during the colonial era and observers says they expect lawyers and judges next to break with centuries-old tradition to cease wearing white horse-hair wigs.
Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda says the move to scrap colonial procedures aims to eliminate unnecessary detentions of suspects and improve the processing of cases.
The head of the country’s judiciary says it will also see every case go through a mediation process for possible settlement before it is heard in open court and the number of days from the commencement of a legal suit to disposal of the matter will be reduced.
The new rules which are contained in government Gazette have also set a time frame for a judge to hand down a ruling within 90 days with an allowance of an extension of 14 days maximum.
Legal experts say the changes are long overdue.
“This is a good development in as far as criminal procedure history in Malawi is concerned, this is an excellent job by the chief justice,” says Michael Goba Chipeta, Malawi Law Society Honorary Secretary.
Chairperson of the parliamentary committee Maxwell Thyolera says the changes will help Malawians have fair and impartial trials.
Commentators say the move is a step toward calls to revisit all archaic legislations like abortion laws which date back to 1861.
They also want change of courtromm dress for a traditional etiquette and that even Britain has partly dropped,saying wigs were anachronistic, as well as uncomfortable and expensive.
A shoulder-length ceremonial wig costs more than $3,000 while the shorter ones worn by lawyers cost about $800 p each.
However, some lawyers feel the wigs give them an air of authority as well as anonymity.
Judges in Britain now must wear wigs only when hearing criminal matters as part of dress code reforms in 2008, ending a centuries-old tradition. Some Commonwealth countries such as Kenya and South Africa have also moved away from wearing wigs in the courts.