The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) in Lilongwe has ordered that UTM Party presidential candidate Saulos Chilima will not pay any costs for withdrawing all his 34 remaining witnesses in the historic elections petition case.
Chilima last week withdrew the witnesses to close his case as first petitioner in the interest of an expedited trial according to Chikosa Silungwe his lead lawyer.
But the withdraw of the witnesses compelled lawyers representing first respondent Peter Mutharika and Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), to demand costs from Chilima as they invested on research and prepared for the case based on sworn statements the withdrawn witnesses filed.
The respondents argued that they spent money travelling across all regions, conducting interviews with the withdrawn witnesses and prepared their cross-examination based on their sworn statements.
But Silungwe, in court, argued that since the withdrawal of the witness was made in the interest of saving time, which is also backed by Civil Procedures, costs be in the cause, meaning the issue of costs be decided at a later stage, be it along the way or at end of the case.
Making their determination on Tuesday, the five-judges panel ordered that there should be no costs paid by Chilima.
In reading the ConCourt determination, judge Dingiswayo Madise said the costs are awarded at the discretion of the court.
He said the court will not determine any costs as the matter if of public interest and costs should not be used to discourage people from seeking justice.
"Cost should not be a weapon to penalise the public in their quest for justice," said the judge.
Chilima's lawyer. Silungwe said they did not want to continue parading witnesses who will come to court and repeat same things other witnesses have testified already, saying their case was premised on two pillars; irregularities and fraud.
The petitioners contend that Mutharika "won a fraudulent May 21 2019 Presidential Election" fraught with irregularities, including alleged tampering with election results sheets with Tippex and want the court to nullify the results and order a re-run.