This was an appeal against a refusal by the High Court to grant the appellants leave to apply for judicial review.
The appellants had formed a society called Movement for the Restoration of the Barotseland Agreement (MOREBA). They applied to the Registrar of Societies for registration of MOREBA. The Registrar rejected the application. Their appeal to the Minister of Home Affairs was also rejected and they were ordered to cease operations in the name of MOREBA.
In determining whether the appellants freedoms of association and assembly were violated, the court considered three issues. Firstly, whether there was procedural impropriety on the part of the Registrar of Societies in failing to give reasons for their decision as per section 8 of the Societies Act, Cap 119 (the Act). Secondly, whether the Minister acted irrationally when he ordered the appellants to cease operations in the name of MOREBA and failed to give reasons for rejecting the appeal. Thirdly, whether there was procedural impropriety by the trial judge for bringing the respondent into the proceedings at leave stage.
The court held that Registrar indicated the grounds for rejecting the application in the letter dated 29 November 2010. The court also held that Registrar rightly exercised their discretion to refuse to refuse to register MOREBA, since its name and objectives were against public policy and national interest. The registration would have caused confusion and disunity in the nation.
The court also held that the Minister’s directive was in line with the decision he made on the appeal. The court noted that section 16 of the Act does not outline the format of the decision to be made by the Minister on appeal.
The court noted that in judicial review, applications for leave are ex parte (orders for leave are given by the court after hearing one party only). However, where the judge is unable to determine whether there is an arguable case on the materials before him, he may summon the respondent to attend and make representations. Nevertheless, the hearings should not resemble the substantive hearing which would take place if leave were granted.
Accordingly, the court agreed with the trial court’s findings. The appeal was dismissed with costs to be taxed if not agreed.