Justices Tibatemwa, Mugamba Rule Against Age Limit Act as Opio, Tumwesigye Uphold It

Justices of the Supreme Court during the delivering of judgment on Thursday.

Justice Lillian Tibatemwa Ekirikubinza has blamed the Inspector General of Police who, through a memo from AIGP Asuman Mugenyi, restricted consultations by members of Parliament especially from opposition parties on the constitutional amendments that repealed the upper presidential age cap from the constitution.

She was Thursday delivering her judgment on the appeal filed last year challenging the decision by the Constitutional Court to uphold the amendments.

The appellants including lawyer Male Mabirizi and others argued that a number of opposition MPs were blocked by Police on orders of the IGP, from interfacing with their electorate, saying the move was unconstitutional.

“I emphasize that the violation of the rights of citizens who couldn’t be consulted by their MPs is contrary to objective 2 (2) of the national principles,” she said.

She also said the presence of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers and actively removing MPs from the Parliamentary chambers violated the sovereignty of Parliament.

Tibatemwa who was the fourth Justice to give her judgement after Stella Arach Amoko (upheld the constitutional court decision), Eldard Mwangusya (quashed the constitutional court decision) and Rubby Opio Aweri (upheld the constitutional court decision), also dismissed the ruling by the constitutional court saying “sound Constitution making should never be sacrificed at the altar of political expedience.”

“I allow the Appeal,” she added.

Tibatemwa noted that Parliament flouted its own rules of procedure while passing the bill when the Speaker decided to amend the order paper to include the Magyezi bill and failing to physically lay the bill on the floor of Parliament.

She said that the discrepancies in the Speaker’s Certificate of Compliance was aimed at curing irregularities which were in contravention of the Constitution, something she had to stop during the debate on the bill in Parliament.

Just like Mwangusya, Tibatemwa stated that it was wrong for the Speaker of Parliament to send the bill accompanied by an invalid and partial certificate of compliance to the President of the Republic of Uganda.

“I find that under no circumstances should a Speaker forward a bill to the President with full knowledge that it contains provisions passed in contravention of the Constitution,” she noted.

Justice Aweri on his part dismissed the petition and ordered both parties to bear their costs.

He said Article 102 (b) did not fall under the basic structure of the constitution.He further advised legislators who allege that they were assaulted, to sue government for redress.

Meanwhile, the fifth justice, Paul Mugamba has also annulled the age limit amendment over lack of certificate of compliance.

“There was no valid Certificate of Compliance issued by the Speaker of Parliament before the President assented to the Bill. This is a fundamental irregularity that can’t be cured by severance as the Constitutional Court attempted to do,” he noted.

He contends that while it was okay to amend the age limit Act, the process that led to the amendment was irregular and unconstitutional.

“For the reasons given above, I found out that the enactment in its entirety cannot be saved. I will declare that the entire constitution amendment act was illegally enacted and is therefore null and void,” Mugamba ruled.

In total, five justices have so far delivered their judgement, out of whom, three have annulled the constitutional amendment while the rest have upheld it.

Justice Jotham Tumwesigye has dismissed the consolidated constitutional appeal saying the Constitutional Court did not err in declaring that the Age Limit amendment was validly passed.

The Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe remains to deliver his own ruling which will be the final one on the bench of seven.

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