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