HAPPENING NOW: Two justices quash MPs’ term extension, back presidential age limit

Constitutional Court Judges Cheborion Barishaki and Elizabeth Musoke slammed the extension of tenure of office from five to seven years; labelling it unconstitutional in the ruling of the agelimit petition at Mbale High Court Thursday 26 July (PML Daily Photo)

MBALE – Two justices of the Constitutional Court Cheborion Barishaki and Elizabeth Musoke have quashed sections of the constitutional amendment act in which MPs extended their tenure of office from five to seven years.

In the ongoing ruling on the age limit petition in Mbale, Justice Barishaki explained that expanding the term of MPs and Local Government officials was smuggled into the bill without consulting the people

Quoting the Sempebwa report, he ruled that absence of the active participation of citizens invalidates any constitutional amendments done to this effect. He said the provision to enlarge the MPs tenure of office was never a subject of the Rapheal Magyezi bill, which was limited to removal the maximum presidential age -limit and the time frame within which to file a presidential petition .

He therefore declared that the Act of Parliament extending its tenure of office is unlawful. MPs must face regular elections and people will be robbed of an opportunity to choose who should govern them after 2021.

“Even then no evidence was adduced by AG to show that there was public participation which is key to any constitutional amendment. Therefore, Parliament didn’t have authority to extent its term of office for more two years…,” Justice Barishaki rules.

However, on the violence that preceded the passing of the Age limit Bill last year, he ruled that had MPs heeded to the orders of Speaker of Parliament and vacated the chambers in time, the embarrassing spectacle would not have occurred.

“Even though MPs have a right to participate in each and every debate, the Speaker has powers to throw an MP who conducts himself in a manner that disrupts debate…,” he said.

He also ruled that it was not true that Parliament was besieged since the security agencies were called by Sergeant at arms to intervene and contain the scuffle.

Justice Barishaki also ruled that the private members bill moved by MP Magyezi did not have a charge on the consolidated fund since there is evidence that the Shs29 m paid to each MP for purposes of consultation their electorate was already available and accounted for the activities of parliamentary Commission.

He also ruled that the minimum and maximum age limits do not tantamount to discrimination

By amending the provisions on age does not mean that the people’s will and sovereignty is taken away, he said. Parliament followed all required procedures to amend the Articles relating to presidential age-limit and according to Justice Barishaki, the act is valid

He said there were wide consultations, debates, certificate of financial compliance, certificate of compliance by speaker and president assented. Therefore, he said the amendments on presidential age – limit are valid.

He also awarded costs to petitioners since their petition partially succeeds and for travelling to Mbale.

Justice Barishaki, however, backed removal of the Presidential Age Limit from the Constitution. He said in amending Article 102 (b) of the constitution, parliament followed all the necessary, rules and procedures of the house and did not contravene, any articles of the constitution or other laws.

The judge noted that MPs were granted time and went out to held consultations with their constituents, and many of them including those in the opposition confirmed that they indeed met with their people and got their views

The bill, he noted, was duly, debated and passed by the house, a certificate of financial implication was issued by the Finance Ministry and the President assented to it.

In his ruling, the judge said he failed to find any evidence or law provision, which proved that by removing the Presidential Age Limit, Parliament in effected subverted the powers of the people, granted to them under Article 1 of the constitution.

Justice Musoke, on her part, agreed with Justice Barishaki, reasoning that it was inconsistent with the Constitution for MPs to extend their term office and that of LC chairpersons to 7 years. She said it defeats the will of people to elect their own leaders.

Justice Musoke also supported Speaker Kadaga’s decision to expel the 25 MPs and the use of reasonable force by armed forces to evict the said MPs who had engaged themselves in an exceptionally unusual behaviour. She added that the presence of the military did not cause any panic to the house.

“Upon examination of the long title of the bill, I found that extension of the life of parliament and the local government, was not related the objectives of the original bill,” she ruled.

Justice Kenneth Kakuru is now reading his ruling.

More details to follow…



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