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High Court hears lockdown case

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Agnes Patemba

Hearing of the lockdown injunction case and judicial review will still continue today as ordered by Lilongwe High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda despite the government’s decision to withdraw its decision to challenge the injunction.

Last week Judge Nyirenda granted an injunction to Human Rights Defenders Coalition stopping the government from implementing the lockdown as one of the measures to control the spread of Covid-19.

Two days after filing the intention to challenge the injunction, Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale decided to withdraw from the case but the court says everything will continue as planned despite government’s absence.

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Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court Agnes Patemba Thursday told The Daily Times that the High Court proceeds with the hearing of the judicial review of the interlocutory injunction on lockdown.

“The court will proceed tomorrow [Friday],” Patemba said.

A legal expert who did not want to be named said the matter will go uncontested in terms of hearing of the inter-partes injunction.

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“What this means is that the defendants will not appear at inter-partes hearing. The court will only hear from the applicants. But whether the court sustains or vacates an injunction will be up to the judge,” the expert said.

Kaphale’s office filed the notice to withdraw its interest to contest the injunction apparently after careful consideration.

“Take notice that the defendants, having carefully considered their position and no longer desirous to argue an application to vacate the interlocutory injunction or to be heard in relation thereto, and no longer being desirous to contest the permission to move for judicial review, do hereby wholly withdraw their court processes filed on 21 April, 2020,” the notice reads.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Kaphale said they believe that with the information in the public domain regarding the progress of the outbreak under the no-lockdown situation, the court will do the right thing.

“There are these daily briefings and I am sure our Judiciary is alive to what is happening and I believe our Judiciary has the nation at heart and will make the right decision,” he said

Lawyer for the applicants Sullivan Kagundu said his clients are ready to appear before the court which will provide guidance on the matter.

“All our documents were served to the Attorney General and other relevant parties. Of course, we know they have withdrawn their response but the judge will still sit and hear our application,” Kagundu said.

Dean of Faculty of Law at Chancellor College Sunduzwayo Madise described the State’s withdrawal as ‘strange times’.

In a discarded submission of its response to the injunction, the government argued that Minister of Health Jappie Mhango followed the legal procedures to declare the lockdown and that it has has put in place necessary measures to cushion the economic impact of the lockdown on those who would be hit hard by the decision.

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