29 December 2017

Uganda: Lawyer Asks Court to Halt Signing of Age Limit Bill

Kampala — The lawyer challenging the process through which Parliament passed the controversial Constitution Amendment Bill to remove the presidential age limit, has petitioned Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo to set the date for the expeditious hearing of his petition.

"The purpose of this letter is to request for a hearing date of the applications so that the right to be heard in the petition is protected and the irreparable damage averted," reads the letter by Mr Male Mabirizi Kiwanuka.

The letter was sent to the Constitutional Court and Deputy Chief Justice on December 27 and received on the same day. Mr Mabirizi is seeking interim orders to restrain the Speaker of Parliament, her deputy, the clerk to Parliament and their officials from presenting the Constitution Amendment Bill No. 2 of 2017 to the President for assent.

He is also seeking orders against the Attorney General (AG) and his agents from publishing the Bill in the national gazette until his petition has been disposed of.

In his affidavit, Mr Mabirizi accuses the AG of ignoring his written advice not to continue with other processes of the Bill "purportedly passed by Parliament" on December 20.

He says the processes referred to include ending the Bill for presidential assent, publishing the Bill in the national gazette and referring Article 105 (1) for a referendum.

Mr Mabirizi filed a constitutional petition last week against the AG, accusing Parliament of flouting the law and provisions of the Constitution during the debating and passing of the Bill.

In the main petition, Mr Mabirizi contends that the actions of Parliament to table a Private Member's Bill when the Leader of the Opposition, the Opposition Chief Whip and other opposition MPs were not in Parliament was in contravention of the Constitution.

The AG was given 15 days to respond to the petition. Thereafter the court will proceed to hear and determine the petition.

What the law says

The Constitution does not prescribe the timeframe within which a constitutional petition must be heard and disposed of. It only provides for expeditious disposal of the petition. Therefore, the President can proceed to sign the Bill into law unless the Constitutional Court issues interim orders stopping him.

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