CAROLINE KALOMBE, Lusaka
MINISTER of Religious Affairs Godfridah Sumaili says the Constitutional Court, and not the magistrates’ court, should determine whether the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) can take over a case in which she is facing contempt of court charges.
Through her lawyers, Reverend Sumaili contends that the magistrates’ court has no powers to make such determination.
Sumaili is charged with contempt of court for allegedly commenting on a case in which United Party for National Development (UPND) president is arraigned for treason.
Rev Sumaili said that the DPP filed a notice to take over the prosecution of her matter, but that the legal practitioners representing Hichilema, who is the complainant in this case, indicated that they intended to oppose this.
This is according to submissions on constitutional reference filed in the magistrates’ court.
It was submitted that the question of whether the DPP can take over the prosecutions cannot be determined by the subordinate court as it does not have the jurisdiction to do so.
“If the complainant’s legal practitioners want to challenge the constitutional powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the correct forum is the constitutional court, and not the subordinate court, or indeed any other court,” it was submitted.
It was also contended that the DPP as chief prosecutor of the government and head of the National Prosecutions Authority cannot be questioned save for proceedings in courts martial.
Further, Rev Sumaili’s lawyers also contended that the question of private prosecution in the absence of the authority of the DPP be referred to the constitutional court for determination.
It was submitted that the request for constitutional reference to the constitutional court is different from constitutional reference to the High Court because when a question relating to the constitution arises, the court shall refer that matter to the constitutional court.