Ugandan Judiciary on Spot Over Delayed Judgment of Petition Challenging Presidential Age Cap Removal

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KAMPALA [Uganda Radio Network] —A Kampala city lawyer James Byamukama has written to Uganda’s chief justice Bart Katureebe questioning the delayed delivery of a judgment on the consolidated petition challenging the presidential age limits removal.

The Constitution Amendment Bill No.2 of 2017 emanated from a private member’s bill tabled by lawmaker Raphael Magyezi. Its enactment removed the upper age cap of 75 years and the lower age cap of 35 years for any citizen to contest for the highest office in the land.

It also extended the term of office for parliamentarians, and Local Government officials from five to seven years and reintroduced presidential term limits that had been removed in 2005.

The amendments were challenged by seven petitioners, whose petitions were consolidated at the time of the hearing. They include Male Kiwanuka Mabiriizi, Winnie Kiiza, the leader of opposition in parliament, Uganda Law Society, opposition chief whip Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, and four other legislators.

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The petitioners demanded that the Constitutional court overturns the controversial amendment on the argument that it was passed out of a violation of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.

The petitioners questioned an allocation of Shs 13 billion, which was shared among members of parliament to conduct consultations on the bill. Parliamentary guidelines stipulate that a private member’s bill can only be accepted if it does not have any financial implication on the consolidated fund.

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They added that the president acted out of the law when he assented to the bill in absence of certificates of compliance from parliament.

In a letter dated June 20, 2018, Byamukama a partner with Byamukama, Kaboneka & Co. Advocates observed that it is now two months since the hearing of the matter at the Mbale High court yet court is silent as to when it will deliver its judgment.

“At the end of the hearing of the matter in Mbale on April 19, 2018, Your Lordships committed court to deliver judgment expeditiously albeit on notice. This was in line with Article 137(7) of the Constitution and Rule 10 of the Constitutional Petitions & References Rules, that Constitutional petitions shall be heard and determined expeditiously,” reads part of the letter to Katureebe.

He says that the delayed judgment has created concern among the petitioners and Ugandans who have an interest in the matter.

“We are mindful of the heavy schedule of court both as a Court of Appeal and Constitutional court. However, court is empowered to suspend any other business pending before it, sit on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays in order to ensure an expeditious hearing in constitutional matters,” he added.

He demanded that the panel of five judges who heard the consolidated petition abide by the commitment they made and the constitutional requirement to deliver judgment in time.

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The panel of the five judges was led by Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, the deputy chief justice and administrative head of the Court of Appeal and the Constitutional court. The other justices are Remmy Kasule, Elizabeth Musoke, Cheborion Barishaki and Kenneth Kakuru.

Byamukama said his letter was delivered to all the five justices who heard the matter in Mbale but are yet to respond.

Judiciary senior communications officer Solomon Muyita told URN that the judges are currently working on the final judgment that will be delivered in not so long a period from now.

Muyita, however, said that the Constitution does not necessarily give timelines for judgment on a constitutional petition to be delivered.