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Entire constitution amendment act was illegally enacted and is therefore null and void, Justice Paul Mugamba rules

Justice Mugamba Paul contends the Age Limit act was illegally enacted, rules it is null and void over the certificate of compliance. (PHOTO/BAMULANZEKI)

KAMPALA – Justice Paul Mugamba has become the second judge to rule that the entire Amendment Act (Age limit) was unconstitutional and must be expunged from the constitution.

Last year, the Constitutional Court sitting in Mbale in a 4:1 decision, upheld the scrapping of the presidential age limit clauses from the Constitution by Parliament prompting a group of three parties including the Uganda Law Society, lawyer Male Mabirizi and 6 opposition MPs led by Winnie Kiiza to challenge the decision before the Supreme Court.

Delivering the ruling on Thursday afternoon, Justice Mugamba ruled that the constitutional amendment process was unfair.

“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, the Supreme Court judge ruled.

He noted that there was evidence on record that some MPs opposed to Age Limit amendment were unlawfully blocked, adding that “This was most unfortunate…”

He added that the Constitutional Amendment Act 2018 is hereby struck down for having been passed in violation of the Constitution and the rules of procedure of Parliament…

Earlier, Justice Eldad Mwanguhya of the Supreme Court also quashed the amendment of the lower and upper presidential age limits by parliament done in 2017, saying it was controversial.

Justice Mwanguhya said that right from the start, the process of conceptualizing, debating and enactment of Constitution (Amendment) Act 2018 that removed the presidential age limit from the Constitution was marred by a number of irregularities.

“Right from the start, the Magyezi bill was controversial and paralyzed parliament and therefore its passing was unconstitutional,” Mwanguhya said.

The Supreme Court judge said the MPs were not given adequate time to debate by the speaker and many others especially from the opposition were left yearning to be allowed to contribute to the debate.

On suspension of some MPs over misconduct by the speaker, Justice Mwanguhya said despite Kadaga having powers to crack the whip on unruly legislators, the manner in which it was done was unconstitutional and rendered the entire process null and void.

“The execution [of the speaker’s order] was bungled up by people [army] the speaker called strangers. MPs including those who were not on the speaker’s list were beaten, tortured and detained before being released without any charge,” the justice of the Supreme Court ruled.

He noted that the rights of MPs and other public members who would have wanted to follow and participate in the debate were infringed upon when the doors of the gallery were closed and absence of a valid certificate of compliance from the speaker to accompany the bill meant there was no valid assent to the bill into law.

The judge, therefore, declared the entire process as null and void for having.

Another judge, Stella Amoko Arach upheld the amendment saying it was done within the provisions of the constitution.

Justice Arach said there was no proof from appellants that members of the public were denied access to the gallery during the reading and tabling of the Bill in Parliament.

On the UGX29m given to MPs for consultations, the lady judge said the bill didn’t have any charge on the consolidation fund because the money had already been budgeted for by the parliamentary commission to fund the activities of the parliament.

She said the constitutional amendment to scrap the lower and upper age limits was done according to provisions of the Constitution and it was right for the Constitutional Court in Mbale to uphold the same.

The court proceedings are still ongoing with six more judges yet to read their judgments

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