The Constitutional Court has ordered that the petition in which LAZ is challenging government’s decision to alter Bill No. 10 of 2019 will be heard next Friday.
This was after the court dismissed the State’s preliminary application asking it to throw out the petition.
In this matter, the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) has dragged President Edgar Lungu, the Attorney General and the National Assembly to the Constitutional Court for attempting to alter the Constitution of Zambia through Bill 10, 2019.
When the matter came up for hearing of the State’s application to have LAZ’s petition dismissed before Constitutional Court judges Hildah Chibomba, Annie Sitali, Mungeni Mulenga, Enock Mulembe and Prof Margaret Munalula, Friday, Attorney General Likando Kalaluka insisted that the petition should be dismissed while the lawyer representing LAZ, John Sangwa State counsel, urged the court to hear it on merit and determine it.
But before hearing the State’s motion to dismiss LAZ’s petition, Sangwa asked for guidance on how to proceed with the two motions which LAZ had raised, asking the court to hear the petition in the absence of the respondents as they had not filed the answer to the petition nor affidavit in opposition, and to also set aside the court’s ruling of September 26.
However, Kalaluka, in his response, said he was disappointed that LAZ had instructed Sangwa to not only to disregard the Court’s orders for directions but to constitutionally disregard the Court’s guidance of raising a motion within another motion when a single judge had directed that the court would hear the respondents motion on Friday.
He added that, “I would like to express my displeasure that the body of lawyers which is expected to respect and protect the law can act in the manner they have done of disregarding the directions of the court.”
But Sangwa said Kalaluka’s comments were unfortunate because members of the bar had the duty to respond to issues as they were presented and not personalise matters.
He added that if Kalaluka wanted to attack his standing before court, he should attack his character outside and not before court.
Sangwa said he had the right to raise preliminary issues and motions in line with the Constitution and that attacking his standing before court was uncalled for.
“If there are people that defend the Constitution, I am among them. I worship the Constitution and I respect the law. Defence of the Constitution has been a hallmark in my entire practice of 30 years. I have the right to raise preliminary issues and motions in line with the Constitution, therefore attacking my standing before court is uncalled for,” he said.
In its ruling, the court guided that it would proceed to hear the State’s motion as indicated in the ruling of September 26.
And to augment the State’s skeleton arguments in support of their motion, Kalaluka argued that LAZ’ allegations were unfounded.
“How does an Attorney General who signs a government bill pursuant to a substantive and mandatory provision of the Constitution, how does that amount to contravention of the Constitution? It’s for this reason that we are saying that this matter should fail and be dismissed at this early without requiring the State to factually oppose or not oppose the allegations here,” Kalaluka said.
He said courts in Zambia had already ruled that one couldn’t impeach a Bill before it becomes Law and further urged the court to dismiss the petition with costs to the State.
“The current Constitution in Zambia does not envisage a situation where this court can be moved to impeach a Bill which is before Parliament. If such a jurisdiction is assumed by this court, we will see future attempts to stop each and every Bill, which will make it impossible for the legislature to perform their function,” submitted Kalaluka.
But Sangwa urged the court to hear the petition on merit and determine it, saying it was not possible for the court to determine the matter on its merit because the respondents did not file the answer and affidavit in opposition to the petition.
He said Orders 14A and 33 Rule 7 on which the State based it’s motion on could not be used together because they served two different purposes.
In its ruling delivered later in the afternoon, the court dismissed the State’s motion and ordered for trial in the main petition to commence on October 11, 2019.
It ruled it had taken a position that the State’s motion lacked merit but added that reasons would follow later.
The court ordered that LAZ shall file skeleton arguments and witness statements, if any by Monday October 7, while the respondents shall file an answer and affidavit in opposition together with skeleton arguments in opposition on Wednesday October 9.