Judge allows judicial review on fuel prices

Justice Razine Mdzikamanda of the Lilongwe High Court on Wednesday granted leave for judicial review of the decision of the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) management to hike fuel prices by an average 26.4 percent on Tuesday.
The Judge has further directed that he will consider the application for injunction after hearing both sides on the application.

Some concerned citizens led by Khalidwe Chilivumbo , a resident of Area 18 in Lilongwe who owns a motor vehicle and thus he has been directly affected by the decision of MERA management,  had on Tuesday asked the Lilongwe High Court to declare the fuel price increase illegal.

Kita: Granted leave for judicial review

He argues that the energy regulatory body, has been operating without a Board of Directors since 2010. Under the laws, it is only the MERA that can sanction any increase or decrease in fuel prices.

Wapona Kita, lawyer for the concerned citizens, told Nyasa Times in an interview that what it means is that the Judge has seen sense and merit in the application for judicial review.

“He (the Judge) has thus allowed us to proceed challenging the decision of the MERA management. If we are successful, the decision of MERA will be quashed,” said Kita on Wednesday, adding that pursuant to the Energy Regulations Act, the MERA executive cannot effect fuel price adjustments without a Board of Directors in place.

“Our argument is simple. Judicial review looks at the decision making process and not the merits of the decision. In the matter at hand, we are not looking at whether it was necessary to raise the fuel prices, but whether that decision has been made by the rightful authority. That is what judicial review is all about,” Kita told Nyasa Times.

“If the court finds that Management of MERA had no authority to make the decision, it will be quashed. Our argument is that under S. 9(1)(c) it the Board and not management of MERA which has the powers of making the decision to raise the fuel prices. Management can not claim to have been delegated when the delegating authority is non-existent. Neither can they claim to have been authorised to do so by any Minister because that Minister will also be acting beyond his powers if he so did,” he said.

But Minister of Energy Goodall Gondwe has trashed the arguments advanced to challenge the price increase.

“Don’t forget that it is lawyers that have encourageds jerry cans in this country that has messed up the fuel market. And if we follow lawyers all the time we will not be bale to run this country smoothly,” said Gondwe on local radio.

“We must do thigs that appears to be right for the common good of Malawi not that appear to be good for a lawyer.”

“Are we going to wait for the board to be appointed to solve a crisis.”

On Tuesday, MERA increased pump price for petrol and diesel by an average of 26.4 percent “with immediate effect”.

The pump price for petrol rose from MK290 to MK380 per litre; price for diesel per litre was adjusted to MK360 from MK260, representing a 38 percent rise; while paraffin is now at MK171 from MK155 per every litre.

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