The Lusaka High Curt will today hear a petition by the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) intended to nullify as unconstitutional, null and void and legally ineffectual sections of the Public Order Act which have been applied in a discriminatory manner thereby violating the requirements that law should equally abide to all citizens.
The Petition seeks to nullify sections section 5, 6 and 7 of the Public Order Act which among other things criminalises the conduct of any person who opposes or disobeys the instructions by the police on procedures for a public meeting to be held.
LAZ has further questioned the Attorney General who is the Respondent, in the matter over section (6) of the Act which criminalises the conduct of any person who opposes or disobeys any direction issued under sub-section (3) of section 5, or violates any condition of the permit issued under subsection (4) of section 5.
“The Act also gives the regulating officer discretion to defer any of the three events which discretion is susceptible to abuse,” said the petition.
According to the present laws anybody intending to hold a meeting must notify the police and such notification would determine whether or not such a meeting would take place.
However, according to LAZ such impositions and criminalization have tended to negate the rights and freedoms of individuals and the public to associate and freely express themselves in speech and through assembly.
“Your Petitioner asserts that the above stated provisions are unconstitutional as they are contrary to the provisions of Articles 20 and 21 of the Constitution of Zambia and do not give the full measure of enjoyment of the freedom of association, assembly and speech, a matter upon which the Zambian Supreme Court has previously pronounced itself,” read the Petition.
The current provisions says any person who intends to assemble or convene a public meeting, procession or demonstration shall give police at least seven days notice of such a programme.
The Petition has further challenged the provisions which defined the requirements for a ‘public meeting’ and ‘public place’ with persons having indoor meetings or indeed a funeral procession to notify the police of such meetings or procession.
According to the LAZ petition, the Act in section 5 (5) further outlines the mandatory conditions that a regulating officer may impose including the date upon which and place and time of the assembly, public meeting or procession is authorized to take place and the maximum duration of the activity taking place.
LAZ is being represented by Messrs Malambo and Company together with Eric Silwamba and Company as the advocates for the Petitioners.