The High Court in Lilongwe earlier this week quashed an appeal by Prakash Naidu of Techno Brain Malawi Limited who is currently under state watch to avert any possibility of him tampering with vital software and hardware used in the production of passports.
Naidu is a technical consultant at Techno Brain, an ICT firm that was awarded a contract to upgrade the passport issuance system and introduce an E-Passport with the Immigration Department in 2019. The contract was, however, terminated late last year on the basis that the awarding process was riddled with irregularities.
Upon termination of contract, state agents have since January 8 confined Naidu to his Area 9 residence as way of restricting his access to servers and other vital information. He has since that time refused to surrender passwords of the servers.
Seeking legal redress on the same, Naidu applied for a writ of habeas corpus for release from what he termed ‘unlawful detention’
Oxford Dictionary terms habeas corpus as a written command by a legal authority requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention.
However, the High Court differed with Naidu’s application on the grounds that he has already sought relief in form of a judicial review on the same matter at the High Court in Zomba.
In her ruling, Judge Annabel Mtalimanja faulted Naidu for abusing the courts and chancing a positive outcome using wrong legal means.
“I find this argument to be misconceived on the ground that having set the wheels of the Court in motion with the judicial review hearing, the same applicant cannot in parallel fashion, invoke the process of this court to adjudicate on the exact same question and seeking the exact same relief of release from detention, whilst awaiting ruling of the court in the former matter,”
Judge Mtalimanja noted that if Naidu wanted to pursue the habeas corpus proceedings in good faith, he was supposed to withdraw the application at the Zomba High Court, not keeping the two remedial intentions active simultaneously.
“I find that the applicant has abused the process of the court and used the court machinery improperly. This cannot be allowed. The application is therefore hereby struck out in its entirety for being an abuse of the court process.”
The Tonse administration terminated the US$60 million (K49.04 billion) passport contract with Techno Brain to facilitate quick fulfillment of its campaign promise of cheap passports to Malawians.