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ConCourt refuses to constitute 7-member panel for Lungu eligibility case

(By Tebuho Sakala and Namatama Mundia)

THE Constitutional Court has refused to constitute a seven-member panel to hear the case in which Dan Pule and three others have asked the court to interpret whether President Edgar Lungu is eligible to contest the 2021 presidential elections.

Pule, and three others, who are pro-PF political party leaders, applied that the petition in which they cited Attorney General, which was currently being heard by five judges- judge president Hilda Chibomba, Mungeni Mulenga, Anne Sitali, Enock Mulembe and Professor Margaret Munalula, be heard by seven judges because of its novelty.

But UPND lawyer Keith Mweemba had submitted that Article 129 (3) was very clear that a full bench of the Constitutional Court constitutes an uneven number of not less than five judges and in that case the court already had five judges who could competently handle the case.

He said the case had from inception been heard by five judges who, according to the law, already constituted the full bench.

Mweemba added that he was on firm ground that the full bench which was already sitting had a legal mind frame which could handle the matter competently.

And Bonaventure Mutale, lead lawyer for Pule and others, insisted that the matter be heard by seven judges while Attorney General Likando Kalaluka had said the State did not object to the application to a full bench.

But the Constitutional Court ruled that the power to constitute a panel is the prerogative of the court itself and not that of the parties or litigants.

“Therefore, ordinarily, this should not be a subject of litigation. We say so because the composition of the panel is an administrative matter which is purely in the discretion of the court and the court takes into account many factors in constituting panels and such factors may include indisposition of judges,” the ruling read.

It further stated that when the court was operationalised, there were only six judges and that when the matter commenced, the number remained six.

The court said it did not see the relevance of the application and dismissed it.

Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court  has allowed losing UPND Munali constituency candidate Doreen Mwamba to file High Court proceedings in her supplementary record of appeal that includes the video that depict violence which characterised the parliamentary elections in the area in 2016.

This was after Mwamba’s lawyer Dr Henry Mbushi applied for leave to file the High Court proceedings on their supplementary record of appeal.

In this case,  Mwamba successfully petitioned Professor Ngandu Luo’s seat after she proved that the violence in Munali prevented the electorate from electing a candidate of their choice.

Judge Anne Sitali, sitting with judges Mungeni Mulenga, Enock Mulembe,  Professor Margaret Munalula and Martin Musaluke, ruled that it would not prejudice Prof Luo if the High Court proceedings were to form part of the supplementary record of appeal which Mwamba intended to file.

Judge Sitali said the rules of the court required Mwamba to seek leave of the court before filing the supplementary record and granted it.

In his application for leave to file,  Dr Mbushi  said he was advised by the registrar of the Constitutional Court that he needed to seek leave of the court.

But Prof Luo’s lawyer Bonaventure Mutale argued that Dr Mbushi’s application was not necessary.

Meanwhile, Dr Mbushi objected to a supplementary list of authorities which Mutale filed on Wednesday without leave of court, saying he needed time to read the authorities.

He said the list of authorities which Mutale ambushed him with had something crucial.

Judge Sitali said she saw the supplementary list of authorities in the morning, adding that Dr Mbushi was, in short, seeking an adjournment to look at the seven authorities filed.

Judge Sitali adjourned the matter to April 20 and urged the parties to be prepared on that day to avoid delaying the matter.

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