By Sania Babirye
As judges prepare to give the verdict on the age limit Bill many Ugandans and well wishers have filled the Court room to capacity. However, security is not so tight as we wait for the Justices to come.
Security at the entrance is confiscating any red hats or badanas which have been worn by any of the people who have come to witness the court session.
Some of the politicians in court include Ssemujju Nganda, Allan Sewanyana, Odonga Otto, Gerald Karuhanga Abedi, Bwanika Rapheal Magyezi, Simeo Nsubuga, Kenny Lukyamuzi.
Lawyers Erias Lukwago Ladislausi Rwakafuzi, Male Mabirizi and Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana
The seven justices of the supreme court led by chief justice Bart Katureebe have started delivering their judgement on the appeal calling for the squashing of the the lifting of the presidential age limit.
However, before starting on the delivering of the judgement, Justice Bart Katureebe has apologized for the delay and explained that, “When they concluded hearing the petition in January this year, he stated it clearly that the ruling was to be on notice due to its nature.
Justice Katureebe has explained that they take their work seriously but the judgement was long and all the seven Justices needed ample time to thoroughly internalize all the evidences from all sides before they could deliver it.
He has also noted that he has been sick for three weeks since he had to under go surgery and has also postponed his second surgery on his eyes to make sure that the judgement is delivered before Easter.
Justice Stella Amoko Arach is now reading her judgement.
So far, Justice Stellah Amoko has thrown out Mabirizi’s claims that the judgement was not delivered in 60 days saying its not mandatory. She has also dismissed his claims that he was not given enough time saying all parties were given enough time while in Mbale, and that Mabirizi was not evicted from the bar because he is not a practicing lawyer so he can’t sit at the bar.
She says artificial 102b was constitutionally amended since the people still maintain the sovereign of the number of terms they want a leader to rule them through voting.
Justice Arach has started delivering her judgement by resolving issue 7 were petitioner Mabirizi and Erias Lukwago alleged that the constitutional court denied them a right to fair hearing.
Justice Arach has dismissed the claim on grounds that the procedure adopted by the Constitutional court in disposing off the Appeal did not in any way infringe on the appellants right to a fair hearing.
She has further stated that Mabirizi was not chased from the bar because he is not a practicing lawyer and hence was given a special seat in the dock where court could easily hear him from and it was the court’s discretion to award him professional fees for the petition.
She says the constitutional court gave enough time to each appellant to properly present his or her petition.
Arach first disposed off the preliminary points of law raised by one of the appellants Hassan Mabirizi in which he wanted the Attorney General’s response to the appeal struck off for being filed out of the stipulated time frame.
Arach says court has powers to validate such pleadings.
She has also dismissed another point of law by the Attorney General William Byaruhanga to have Mabirizi’s appeal taken off the record for having arisen out of a Constitutional petition that was filed in December 2017 way back before the enactment of the Bill into Law. However, Arach says Mabirizi’s petition was filed in accordance with the law since it was challenging the manner and processes that led to the enactment of the Bill.
Three issues raised by the appellants have been dismissed with Justice Arach agreeing with the five justices of the Constitutional court.
Just like the constitutional court, Justice Arach also maintained that there was no need to hold a referendum for parliament to Amend A(102)b since its not one of the entrenched articles (Ezagumizibwa mu ssemateeka).
She has explained that the Bill did not make a charge on the Consolidation fund because the said UGX29 million that was paid to each Member of Parliament for consultation was already put aside by the parliamentary commission to run its activities.
She has also ruled that the speaker of parliament had a right to Amend the order paper and include the Bill and as a result, she did not smuggle it in as it had been alleged by appellants.
She also ruled that there was no proof from the appellants that members of the public were denied access to parliamentary gallery during the reading and tabling of the Bill in Parliament .
Justice Arach has also stated that there was a right quorum of 1/3 of MPs while voting on the Bill even though the leader of opposition and other MPs chose to walk out of the chambers .Judge says this did not contravene the procedure.
In conclusion, she has dismissed the consolidated appeal and confirmed the decision of the constitutional court sitting in Mbale that ruled that the bill was constitutionally passed.She has also directed all parties to bare their own costs.
Justice Mwangusya states that although some of the issues raised by the appellants were valued, however they would not warrant an annulment of the age limit law.
He also says that failure to deliver the judgement in 60 days cannot have the judgement declared null and void as Mabirizi had stated in his petition in the high court.
He says that issues like the constitutional failure to summon key witnesses like speaker Kadaga are valid but were not fatal enough to annul the amendment of the Act.
Justice Mwagusya has faulted the Constitutional court saying it should have annulled the process of conceptualizing, tabling, debating and passing of the Magyezi bill because the entire process was null and void.
Mwangushya says lack of public participation and consultation also defeated the faith in which the Bill was brought since consultations were curtailed by security.
He also declared that the rights of Members of Parliament and other members of the public who would have wanted to follow and participate in the debate were infringed on when the doors of the gallery were closed.
He further declared that the absence of a valid certificate of compliance from the speaker to accompany the bill, means there was no Valid assent to the Bill into Law by President Museveni because there was nothing to ascend to.
He says that the process of debating and passing the bill was null and void. Consultation was interrupted.
There was no valid certificate of compliance and as a result the president illegally ascended to the bill with no valid certificate of compliance.