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Government challenges lockdown injunction

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Government states that the court need to lift the injunction on lockdown obtained by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to allow it to fight Covid-19 pandemic arguing that it would not be in a position to compensate families who will lose their relatives.

Government made the argument in a skeleton argument filed on Tuesday, challenging the injunction that the High Court in Lilongwe granted to Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to stop government from implementing the national lockdown as a means of fighting the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.

But Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) says were not concerned with government’s intentions to challenge the injunction against the lockdown which the group obtained last week.

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Acting Chairperson of HRDC Gift Trapence said HRDC lawyers were prepared for the Attorney General in court.

The skeleton arguments signed by Principal State Advocate Neverson Chisiza, that The Daily Times has seen, asked the court to discharge, with cost, the permission for judicial review and an order of interlocutory injunction that HRDC obtained.

Chisiza argued that the the Minister of Health did not act ultra vires when it ordered for a lockdown as the Minister has powers under Section 31 of the Public Health Act to promulgate rules.

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“The lockdown is provided for under the rules. Such a lockdown is therefore lawful. That the rules do not substantially and significantly negate the enjoyment of rights and freedoms recognised under the Constitution. The rules only restrict the enjoyment of the said rights.

Chisiza in the skelton argument asked the court to dismiss sworn statement of Member of Parliament Kezzie Msukwa as he was a stranger to the proceedings. He also asked the court to dismiss sworn statement of Gift Trapence and Moses Mkandawire for being fatally defective for failure to comply with the basic requirements in a sworn statement in a representative action.

“What therefore remains of sworn statements in support of the judicial review proceedings and application for injunction are the sworn statements of MPs Esther Cecilia Kathumba and Monica Chang’anamuno,”

However, government argued that the sworn statements by the MPs, on their own, did not establish an arguable case for judicial review.

‘Neither do they adequately support an application for injunction,” reads the skeleton argument.

“My lord, we are dealing with a very deadly disease that is highly infectious. The disease has no vaccine or medical treatment. Every passing second, Malawians risk contracting the disease.

It is the lives of people that are at stake. Surely, damages would not be adequate remedy should things go out of hand,” reads the response.

The AG’s office also defends that there was no legal requirement to declare state of emergency as rights of people will not be derogated but restricted by obtaining travel permits.

Lawyer for the claimants Sullivan Kagundu confirmed that Justice Kenyatta is set to hear the judicial review proceedings on April 24, 2020.

Earlier HRDC leader Trapence argued that the coalition is not against lockdown but government should put in place sufficient measures to cushion the economy of those in the informal sector in order to sustain their livelihood during the 21 days lockdown.

Currently the country has recorder 24 cases of Covid-19 with two deaths and three recoveries since it was first confirmed in the country.

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