The Supreme Court has halted proceedings in the trial of opposition UPND president Hakainde Hichilema.
Judge Muyunda Wanki ordered that the trial of Mr Hichilema on the charge of disseminating false information should be halted until finalization of preliminary matters which include a challenge of the constitutionality of the law under which HH has been charged.
Earlier, High Court Judge C Phiri had refused an application for the criminal case to be halted while the law was challenged.
Judge Wanki has set January 24 for an inter parte hearing application to set aside judgment by High Court Judge C Phiri who refused to stay trial pending a resolution of constitution matters.
Constitutional lawyers representing Mr Hichilema have argued that Section 67 of the penal code on which their client has been charged was in contravention of the Constitution of Zambia and earlier, applied to the High Court to halt the trial while they challenged the Law, but Judge Phiri rejected the application and insisted that the matter should proceed in the High Court.
Subsequently, Magistrate Joshua Banda set 15th to 18th January for trial as it insisted that trial should proceed notwithstanding the Constitutional challenge before the High Court.
In her order, Judge Phiri refused the request to stay criminal proceedings while the constitutionality of cap 67 was being questioned.
The lawyers subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court where Judge Wanki has now halted the criminal trial to allow an application for Judge Phiri’s Judgment to be set aside for the Constitutional matters to be heard.
In their argument to the Supreme Court, Mr Hichilema’s lawyers explained the challenge intended to declare the effects of Section 67 of the Penal Code violated the rights and freedoms of their client as guaranteed under Articles 20(1) of the Constitution.
“In any case, there is no need to rush because if the High Court determines that section 67 of the Penal code sits well with the Constitution then the lower court will not be precluded from continuing with the case. If on the other hand the matter in the Subordinate Court proceeds whilst the constitutional issues remain unsettled, the injustice and prejudice to the Appellants is obvious.”
They explained that “The mischief to be avoided by directing the Subordinate Court to stay proceedings was to avoid trying and maybe even convicting the appellant on a law which is questionable,” they explained.
Mr. Hichilema is represented by Mr Sakwiba SikotaSC, Noah Dindi, Hon. Jack Mwiimbu and Mr. Marshal Muchende. Other lawyers include Mr. Keith Mweemba and Marta Mushipe.