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Attorney General appeals UTM registration

By MacDonald Thom:

Office of the Attorney General (AG) has filed a Notice of Appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal against the High Court’s last week’s judgement that United Transformation Movement (UTM) should be registered within seven days from November 2 2018.

Judge John Chirwa ruled that the Registrar of Political Parties should register UTM, saying the decision by the Registrar to reject the party’s registration was unreasonable and unjustifiable.

But the government wants the Supreme Court of Appeal to overrule the decision, and declare that a communication the Registrar of the Political Parties made denying UTM registration should stand.

The government also wants the Supreme Court to declare that limitation or restriction to register UTM as a political party passes the limitation test obtaining under Section 44 of the Constitution.

The government also wants the Supreme Court to declare that the Registrar of Political Parties was justified in considering what is in the public domain in execution of his statutory duties.

The Registrar of Political Parties refused to register UTM on grounds that documents for registration only carried the abbreviation UTM instead of United Transformation Movement as is the case on the movement’s promotional material.

In a Notice of Appeal, dated November 6 2018, the Attorney General has raised four grounds of appeal. One of them, according to him, is that the judge erred in law and fact by finding that the respondent was not accorded an opportunity to be heard as if the respondent was being accused of wrong-doing.

The document also says Judge Chirwa misdirected himself at law and fact in finding that the Registrar of Political Parties, in exercise of his statutory powers, should have restricted himself to what was presented to him and pay a blind eye to what is in the public domain.

“The learned judge erred in law and fact in finding that the limitation or restriction to the respondent’s constitutional right did not pass the test obtaining under Section 44 (1) of the Constitution when in fact it is clear that the said limitation is reasonable (avoidance of criminality) prescribed under the statute, recognised by international rights standards and necessary in an open and democratic society,” reads the document.

Following the development, the AG has applied for an order at the High Court seeking suspension of Chirwa’s judgement.

Inter-partes summons for the order, filed at the High court in Blantyre, shows that the application will be heard on November 13 2018.

“Let all parties concerned attend the judge in chambers on the 13the Day of November… for hearing of an application by the appellant for an order suspending the enforcement of the decision of the court dated 2nd November 2018, on the grounds, inter alia, that the enforcement would render the appeal herein nugatory,” reads the summons, dated November 5 2018.

UTM, lawyer, Michael Goba Chipeta Tuesday said the application does not change anything.

“It is within their rights to apply to appeal. But filing a Notice of Appeal does not stop enforcement of the judgement [that UTM should be registered within seven days]. We expect to Registrar of Political Parties to comply with the court’s decision,” Chipeta said.

He added: “They have applied for suspension of the enforcement of the judgement. The court will hear the application on November 13. But if the Registrar does not comply with the judgement by the High Court, he will be in contempt of court,” Chipeta said.

UTM filed documents for registration in September but the Registrar rejected the application. This prompted the party to take the matter to the High Court.

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