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Age Limit Law: Tension, Excitement as Three Supreme Court Justices Deliver Judgement in Favor of Petitioners

Justice Paul Mugamba said the presence of the military at Parliament during discussion of the bill that led to the assault of several legislators opposed to the bill was uncalled for.
Some of the age limit appellants Hon. Betty Nambooze, and Hon. Allan Ssewanyana.
There are mixed feelings as the Justices of the Supreme Court deliver their judgement on the consolidated age limit appeals. Three of the seven Supreme Court Judges have so far delivered their judgments nullifying the scrapping of the presidential age limit from the constitution. 

They are justices Paul Mugamba, Eldard Mwanguhya and Lillian Tibatemwa. The three judges argue that the process leading to the conceptualization of Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2017, which paved way for scrapping of the presidential age limit was illegal.  

Their main argument is that there was no valid certificate of compliance accompanying the Bill, which the President assented to in December, 2017. 

"Because of the defectiveness of the Certificate of Compliance issued by Parliament 'confirming' that the procedural requirements of amendment had been followed. I hereby declare the entire Constitutional Amendment Act of 2017 to be null and void ", said Justice Tibatemwa. 

Tibatemwa also ruled that court cannot go ahead to sever a document, which has no legal standing. Lady Justice Tibatemwa also excited the petitioners when she ruled that "the acts of Parliament were misconceived and unconstitutional since they compromised majority Ugandans.”  

"Acts that take us back to the sad history of Uganda cannot be maintained in the constitution. I hereby allow this appeal with each party bearing its own costs since this is a public interest matter", said Tibatemwa.

Justice Paul Mugamba said the presence of the military at Parliament during discussion of the bill that led to the assault of several legislators opposed to the bill was uncalled for.  

"The chilling effect of this invasion of the military in parliament cannot be underestimated," Justice Mugamba stated. Mugamba declared the entire process of enacting the law unlawful and partially allowed the appeal.

Earlier on, Justices Apio Aweri and Stella Arach Amoko upheld the Constitutional court verdict that rendered the removal of the presidential age limit lawful. This implies that the Judges who have so far nullified the law are the majority since those supporting it are few. (3:2).     

Some of those opposed to the scrapping of the petitioners led by Male Mabirizi were heard, saying that they are going to pray such that the next Justice delivers judgment in their favor.  Those left are Justices Jotham Tumwesigye and Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe.

The appeal stems from a Constitutional Court judgment delivered by a panel of four judges in 2018 upholding the constitutional amendment, which lifted the 75 year presidential age cap. The justices including Cheborion Barishaki, Elizabeth Musoke, Alphonse Owiny-Dollo and Remmy Kasule, said the bill was passed within the laid down procedures.    

However, Justice Kenneth Kakuru delivered a dissenting judgment noting that the entire process of amending the Constitution was flawed, since the majority of the legislators never consulted citizens, in whom the power is vested.  

Following the constitutional court judgment, city lawyer Male Mabirizi, six opposition members of Parliament and Uganda Law Society petitioned the Supreme Court on 16 grounds indicating that the constitutional court judges erred in law.

Mabirizi particularly noted that the judges erred in law when they failed to state the reasons for their decision not to summon the speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga to testify on matters that relate to the conduct of parliament and events that dominated the process. 

The petitioners demanded that the constitutional amendment process be declared null and void for derogating the right to a fair hearing.