Mulli Brothers Limited (MBL) Holdings on Friday asked the Supreme Court of Appeal to discharge an order granted to the Attorney General (AG) to appeal outside time.
A single Supreme Court judge Anaclet Chipeta earlier granted the AG the order, allowing his office to appeal against a High Court judgement that ordered government to pay Sunrise Pharmaceuticals Limited and Chombe Foods Limited.
The two companies are under MBL, and should Supreme Court rule in favour of the two companies, government stands compelled to pay them money in excess of K3 billion (about $6.5m) according to their lawyer, Tamanda Chokotho.
The two companies suffered damages and loss of business during the July 20 2011 anti-government demonstrations against economic malaise under the administration of the late Bingu wa Mutharika.
During the demonstrations, rioters looted the two companies in Lilongwe.
After the High Court ruling that ordered government to pay the two companies, the Judiciary in June 2013 wrote the AG and secretary to the Treasury, ordering them to comply with the court order.
But the AG’s office appealed against the High Court judgement but did not follow other procedures.
Chipeta granted the AG the order to appeal outside time, a move the two companies, through lawyer Chokotho, were challenging yesterday.
Chokotho said his clients were concerned about issues of procedures bearing in mind that the applicant, the AG, was represented and is a lawyer who should have known the procedures.
He said the court should not condone laxity, arguing a properly trained lawyer ought to read thoroughly sections to do with appealing outside time.
Chokotho said: “This order [to appeal outside time] has to be discharged. This court must allow diligence and not that laxity. Interest of justice does not tilt in favour of defaulting applicant.”
He argued that the litigant must enjoy the fruits of the judgement.
But lawyer Madalitso Kausi, representing the AG, argued that procedures are there to “guide us and not rule us”.
Kausi prayed that the Chipeta order must be upheld to enable them to proceed with the appeal against the High Court judgement that binds government to pay the two companies.
He said the matter was of national importance; hence, the Supreme Court could not miss the opportunity to guide society on a matter that may return in court again.
But in response on the argument that the matter is of national interest, Chokotho argued that if the price is higher, it calls for extra diligence and wondered where the AG was and how he left a junior counsel unsupervised.
Supreme Court judges Jane Ansah, Frank Kapanda and Dunstain Mwaungulu adjourned the case for a ruling on a date to be communicated.