Court dismisses State on UTM registration

Dust is refusing to settle in the legal battle between the State and the newly formed United Transformation Movement (UTM) as the High Court on Wednesday rebuffed an application by the Attorney General (AG) and the registrar of political parties to put aside the court’s earlier order to register the movement as a political party within seven days.

A court document dated November 6, 2018 and signed by High Court Judge John Chirwa which Nation Online has seen, cited that there were no good grounds in support of the application.

Kaliati addresses UTM supporters outside the High Court in Blantyre

Through senior State advocate in the Attorney General’s (AG) Chambers Neverson Chisiza, the State is challenging High Court Judge John Chirwa’s ruling that the registrar of political parties’ decision not to register the movement—which is promoting Vice-President Saulos Chilima’s presidential ticket in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections was erroneous.

Filed as Miscellaneous Civil Appeal No. 113 of 2018 with Attorney General and registrar of political parties as appellants and Dr Saulos Klaus Chilima as respondent, the court has also delisted hearing of the appeal case that was scheduled for November 13.

 

A UTM supporter captured in celebratory mood

Reads the statement in part: “There are no good grounds advanced in the sworn statement in support of the application upon which the court would persuade to derive a successful litigation of the fruits of this litigation.

“It is the considered view of this court that should the appellant’s within appeal be successful, the same will not have been rendered nugatory by the appellant’s compliance with this court’s order because the Supreme Court can in that event order the deregistration of UTM as a party. The application is thus declined.”

Chirwa further said the court therefore sees no merit in proceeding with the application set for November 13, 2018 adding that “the same is thereby delisted”.

Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Agnes Patemba confirmed the release of the court document adding that this means that the November 2 order still stands.

“However, the state can go ahead to file an appeal if they want,” she added.

Chisiza refused to comment on the matter referring this reporter to Ministry of Justice spokesperson Pilirani Masanjala who claimed ignorance of the matter.

“That is news to me, I do not know anything about that. The document that I have shows that the matter will be heard on the 13th of November, that is what I know,” he said.

Commenting on the development in a separate interview, UTM lawyer Michael Goba Chipeta said the court’s decision does not change the position of UTM because the High Court judgement is still in operation and “we expect the registrar to comply”.

Goba explains further: “When a person files an appeal, sometimes they want the judgement they are appealing against to be suspended sort of, however, on top of the appeal, the State filed this application which has been dismissed.”

In a press statement, UTM interim spokesperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga said this indicates that there is nothing at law stopping the registrar of political parties from registering UTM as a political party under the Political Parties (Registration and Regulation) Act by Friday, November 9, 2018.

UTM leader Vice-President Saulos Chilima filed a six-ground appeal through his lawyer Michael Goba Chipeta challenging the Registrar of Political Parties’ decision on September 21, 2018 to reject the movement’s application to register as a political party.

In his submissions, Chipeta argued that it was illogical for the Registrar of Political Parties to ignore the information UTM provided and instead base his decision on information that was in the public domain.

Further, Chipeta argued that the movement was not granted an opportunity to be heard as required by rules of natural justice.

In his ruling, Judge Chirwa described the decision by the Registrar of Political Parties to reject UTM application as “unreasonable and unjustifiable” and ordered its registration within seven days.

He also concurred with Chipeta saying the registrar erred in not considering the documents UTM presented before him such as the manifesto and constitution and instead only used information from the public domain.

 

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