By Sania Babirye
The supreme court is today expected to rule on the much awaiting presidential age limit petition which seeks to have the law squashed on grounds that it was passed unconstitutionally .
The much anticipated judgement will be delivered bu all the seven Justices of the supreme court led by the chief Justice Bart Katureebe.
Other Justices on the panel include Justice Rubby Opio Aweri, Eldard Mwangusya, Stellah Arach Amoko,Lillian Tibatemwa Ekirikubinza, Jotham Tumwesigye and Justice Paul Mugamba.
The petitioners in the case include city lawyer also representing himself Hassan Male Mabirizi, Uganda law society and six opposition members of parliament led by former opposition leader in parliament Winfred Kiiza, Allan Sewamyana, Gerald Karuhanga , Mubarrak Munyangwa, Ssemujju Nganda and Jonathan Odur.
On the 16th of January 2019, the supreme court concluded hearing the presidential age limit petition and the judgement was to be delivered by the 16th of March.
However, it has taken three months to have the judgement delivered after one of the petitioners Male Mabirizi petition the high court in Kampala on Monday this week seeking orders to compel justice Bart Katureebe who heads the supreme court and the judiciary to deliver the said judgement and also give reasons why the said judgement was delivered after the expiry of the 60 days within which it should have been delivered.
However, immediately after Mabirizi dragging the chief justice to the high court over the delayed judgement , the supreme court registrar Godfrey Anguandi Opifeni issued a notice setting today as the court will deliver its judgement.
While concluding hearing of the petition, justice Bart Katureebe warned Mabirizi against dragging him to the East African court of justice over delayed delivery of the said judgement beyond the required 60 days.
Justice Katureebe explained that day to Mabirizi that the appellant court had seven other Justices and that each of them comes up with his or her own judgement after a thoroughly reading and analysing all the evidences produced which takes time.
However, Justice Katureebe promised to endeavor and deliver the said judgement as soon as possible.
The petitioners want the age limit law declared null and void because it was allegedly passed unconstitutionally.
These claim that the entire bill should be squashed to save the country another catastrophe because it offends several Articles of the Constitution.
Some of the irregularities they cited during the debating and passing of the law included the invasion of parliament by the army and violence that was inflicted on opposition MPs who were against the passing of the law.
These also cited the inadequate consultations to the Public who are the custodians of the law and the fact that the speaker of parliament abducted her duties by leaving parliament and allowing the army to invade parliament.
They submitted that such actions leading to the passing of the law tantamount to terrorism and a law passed in such away has only one remedy which is to annul it in its totality.
These also faulted the constitutional court five justices led by the Deputy chief justice Alifonse Owiny Dolo who upheld the law yet they observed that there was violence during the process of passing the age limit law but deemed it minimal and necessary to create peace in the process among other grounds.
In response, the government through the deputy attorney general Mwesigwa Rukutana asked the supreme court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the decision by the Constitutional court that retained the removal of the presidential age-limit .
Rukutana explained that Mabirizi had filed the petition in the constitutional court challenging the Age-limit Bill before it was passed into Law.
Rukutana argued that Mabirizi had no cause of action by then and therefore this appeal cannot stand.
However Mabirizi submitted that the acts he complains of both in his Petition and appeal started way back at the time of tabling and conceptualizing the entire bill before it was assented to by the president.
State had further asked court to dismiss the appeal on grounds that it is indeed incompetent in law as it seeks to challenge an act of parliament not the bill itself.
These submitted that the appeal was merely speculative and narrative as petitioners grounds of appeal do not spell out the actual errors committed by the Constitutional court justices while hearing and adjudicating upon the petition but the appellants just complained that the judges erred in law and fact.
The attorney General explained that he had perused the entire grounds and memorandum of appeal and concluded that the appeal offends several rules of procedure governing pleadings in the Supreme court and hence should be struck out .
He submitted that parliament is a vested with powers to amend the constitution as many times as possible as on behalf of citizens as long as it doesn’t touch on the basic structures of the Constitution.
He argued that article A(102b) regarding the presidential age-limit is not one of the Articles that does not need approval by the citizens in order for it to be amended by Parliament .
However, Justice Katureebe noted that after the removal of term -limits , the only pillar to that Article was only the Age – limit and wondered whether the removal of age -limit was not meant to benefit the incumbent president.
On the 27th of July 2018, the Constitutional court upheld the Constitutional amendments that lifted the presidential age -limit .
Four Justices out of the five justices in a majority decision led by Deputy Cheif Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo, Remmy Kasule, Elizabeth Musoke and Cheborion Barishaki ruled that the bill was passed constitutionally since there was nothing inconsistent with the constitution as members of parliament lifted the 75 year age limit for a presidential candidate .
These also ruled that it was not a mandatory requirement for such amendments to be carried through a referendum or approved by the public.
They explained that the voters did vest all heir power into Parliament to formulate laws and therefore it would be unreasonable to fault parliament for exercising this power in coming up with the recent Constitutional amendment.
The justices also backed their judgement with the recent recommendation by the Supreme court in the presidential petition of John Amama Mbabazi against Yoweri Kaguta Museveni which called for constitutional amendments regarding the presidential minimum and maximum age .
However Justice Kenneth Kakuru in a descenting judgement dismissed the constitutional amendments on grounds that they were unconstitutional.
Justice Kakuru explained that the amendments did not represent the true will and sovereignty of the people of Uganda.
Justice Kakuru did explain that participation is key to any constitutional amendments and short of it , causes the whole amendment to be a nullity.
He further explained that the way the Mps claimed to have conducted consultation meetings with their electorate was by far unfortunate since they used social media and Ipads as submitted by the Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukuntana.
They described the move as selfish and intended to deny other people from standing also.
On the 18th of January 2018, six opposition MPs led by the leader of parliament Winifred Kiiza petitioned the Constitutional court seeking orders to nullify the newly enacted age-limit law saying it contravened several articles of the Constitution.
These filed the suit through their lawyers Erias Lukwago and Ladislausi Rwakafuzi, saying they were aggrieved with the entire process and the actual enactment of the age-limit law which they allege was tainted with flaws and untold tension.
These were also joined by city lawyer Hassan Male Mabirizi who represented himself and Uganda Law Society a led by its president Francis Gimara.
Through renowned law prof Fredrick Ssempbewa and the Agago North MP prof. Morris Ogenga Latigo, Uganda Law Society stated that it was aggrieved with the whole process of conceptualizing, tabling, consultation , debating and passing of the age-limit bill in parliament on the 20th of December 2017 which did not put into consideration of Civil liberties of Ugandans .
According to ULS, the whole processes that lead to the passing of the law including security forces entering parliament to assault and arrest opposition MPs , the intorrelence and participan behaviour of security agencies and failure to comprehensively consult citizens on the matter were in violations of the constitution.
The MPs were seeking the constitutional court to annul the age-limit law on grounds that it did not reflect the true will of Ugandans since police restricted country wide consultations to collect people’s views coupled by the many irregularities exhibited its debating and passing.
They also wanted the action of president Museveni to assent to an illegal bill and the a decision to withdraw money from the consolidated fund to give each MP 29 million shillings to consult his/electorate unconstitutional.
Meanwhile the ULS also wanted the Constitutional court to declare that it was unconstitutional for parliament to pass a private members bill(Magyezi bill) whose effect was to have payments made from the consolidated fund to facilitate the extended tenure of office for MPs and LG Councillors from five years to seven years that put a stretch on the tax payers money by calling for Electoral commission to hold separate presidential and parliamentary elections.
The lawyers wanted further court to declare that having limitations to holding public offices is the core spirit of constitutionalism in a free and democratic society .
On the 27th of December 2017 president Museveni accented to the bill and has since been gazetted, however, the aggrieved MPs claimed that the now law was published and gazetted without instructions from the clerk to parliament