The High Court in Blantyre, has set Tuesday, January 10, 2016 as the date to determine the constitutionality of section 184(1)(c) of the Penal Code.

Section 184(1) (c) of the Penal Code provides that; “every person found in or upon or near any premises of any road or highway or any place adjacent thereto or in any public place at such time and under such circumstances as to lead to the conclusion that such person is there for an illegal or disorderly purpose, is deemed a rogue and vagabond.”

According to a press statement issued on Friday by the Southern Africa Litigation Center (SALC) and the Center for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA), a three-member branch of the High Court of Malawi will deliver the judgment and the hearing will start at 9:30 in the morning.

The statement further states that the applicant, Mayeso Gwanda who is a street vendor by trade was arrested on his way to sell plastic bags and charged under the section, hence his challenging the section.

The applicant’s criminal trial subsequently stayed on pending following his submission to the court that the offence he was charged with was outdated and vague which results in its arbitrary enforcement by the police.

The applicant further argued that the offence of rogue and vagabond as stated in section 184(1) (c) results in a number of rights violations.

“The applicants argued that the offence of rogue and vagabond results in a number of rights violations, including his rights to dignity, privacy, freedom from discrimination, and freedom from movement,” reads the press statement in part.

The Legal Bureau, Center for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) and Paralegal Advisory Services Institute (PASI) also joined the case as amicus curiae.

The offence of rogue and vagabond as stipulated under section 184(1)(c) of the Penal Code has been widely criticized by civil society, academics and the courts for the arbitrary manner in which it has been enforced.

However, law enforcers have backed the law as one that deters theft and criminal activities from taking place in different communities. (By Lasul Grant Nkhulembe, Blantyre, January 9, Mana)

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