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Parley, Executive Race to Amend Rogue & Vagabond Law

Parley, Executive Race to Amend Rogue & Vagabond Law



Parliament and the Executive are racing against time to avoid a contempt of court order for delaying the review of penal code laws that allow law enforcers to arrest people at night on the pretext of being rogue and vagabond.

This follows a July 22, 2022, High Court of Malawi order issued in Zomba, mandating the two arms of government to review Section 184 of the Penal Code by July 22, 2024.

Judge Zione Ntaba ordered that the Executive, through the Ministry of Justice (the Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions, Chief Legislative Counsel, and the Ministry of Home Affairs [now Homeland Security]), and the Legislature, through the Speaker and relevant committees, should within 24 months from the order date, effectively review and amend the entire Section 184 of the Penal Code. The amendments should address the provisions declared unconstitutional and ensure consistency with the Constitution while covering any unintended gaps in the law.

Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs Chairperson Peter Dimba told Zodiak Online that his committee met with officials from the Ministry of Justice to discuss the matter. The meeting included officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and other relevant parties.

He said the parties agreed that the Ministry of Justice should inform the courts about the commencement of the review process to avoid contempt charges.

“The court order gave a timeframe for when the amendment process should commence. We have less than six weeks to the set date. At this meeting, we discussed how best to handle the issue within the timeframe. Our understanding of the court order is that by July 22, 2024, the process should commence,” said Dimba.

Dimba added that the committee also advised the Malawi Police Service to stop arresting people at night under the rogue and vagabond law, as it is against the law and the court judgment on the matter.

Section 184 criminalizes any suspected person without visible means of subsistence who cannot give a good account of themselves. This includes rogue and vagabond laws, which were declared unconstitutional for promoting arbitrary arrests based on assumptions of criminality.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Lawyer Chikondi Chijozi says the commencement of the process to amend the penal code is a positive step towards safeguarding the rights of people in the country.

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Last modified on Saturday, 08/06/2024

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