Court dismisses another UTM registration case

The High Court in Blantyre has dismissed another application for a judicial review on the registration of UTM as a political party.

In the application, filed by private practice lawyer Bob Chimkango as the State (on the application of United Transformation Party-UTP) as claimant and the Registrar of Political Parties as putative defendant, the lawyer sought a court order against the decision by the Registrar of Political Parties to proceed to register a political party with a name similar to or that closely resembles that of the claimant, being UTM, without regard and recourse to the claimant for its grievances.

UTM interim secretary general Patricia Kaliati addresses supporters outside the court after the first ruling on November 2

The application, said to be on behalf of UTP acting on secretary general Alexander Solanke, also sought a review on the decision of the Registrar of Political Parties to completely ignore provisions of Section 7(b)(ii),(iii) and (iv) of the Political Parties (Registration Regulation) Act in making his decision to register UTM as a political party on November 9 2019, but backdated to September 21 2018.

In his ruling on the ex-parte application, High Court Judge Mike Tembo said he found it objectionable that the claimant (UTP) should now come back before the court to seek a review of the decision of the Registrar of Political Parties to register the UTM when the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal is yet to hear arguments of the State and UTM on the matter.

In this regard, the judge said the application was “frivolous, vexatious and hopeless”.

Reads Tembo’s ruling in part: “The court finds further that there is no case suitable for consideration at a full hearing and that permission to apply for judicial review should not be granted. The claimant’s application for permission is accordingly declined.”

The judge said the claimant, as a legal person, having been aware of the fact that the issue of registration of UTM Party was before the same court, should have applied to join as a party to the proceedings given that obviously the outcome of that publicly known case were going to affect the claimant.

He advised the claimant to wait for the determination of the said issues by the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal in the pending matter.

Tembo also clarified that the rules of procedure in the court allow a person affected by a proceeding to apply to the court to be added as a party to that proceeding in accordance with Order 6 rule 7 Courts (High Court) (Civil Procedure) Rules.

He said: “It is also vexing to the Registrar of Political Parties to expect him to come to this court to answer to the issue being raised by the claimant when he registered the UTM party because he was compelled to do so by the order of this court following an earlier challenge to his decision refusing the UTM party on grounds similar to those being advanced by the claimant now.”

Tembo’s judgement comes barely a week after Judge Frank Kapanda, sitting as a single Supreme Court of Appeal judge, upheld an earlier High Court decision to reject the State’s application to suspend enforcement of an order to register United Transformation Movement (UTM) as a political party.

Kapanda’s ruling was the State’s third successive loss in the UTM registration case that has so far unfolded in a typical cat-and-mouse chase.

In an interview Thursday, Chimkango hinted that his client wanted the court to clarify whether it was proper to register UTM as a political party while there is already a party by the name UTP.

He said: “We have received the order. UTP wanted a few housekeeping on the registration, but well, the court says we are late. Let it be known to you that the application was made on November 9 2018.”

UTM is a political movement formed in July this year and is canvassing for Vice-President Saulos Chilima’s presidential bid in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.

High Court Judge John Chirwa on November 3 ordered the Registrar of Political Parties to register the grouping.

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