In a 4:3 decision, the Supreme Court upholds the Constitutional Court age limit ruling, effectively quashing an appeal to nullify the decision.
AGE LIMIT APPEAL RULING AT THE SUPREME COURT
KAMPALA - The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the Constitutional Court age limit ruling, effectively quashing an appeal to nullify the decision.
It was a 4:3 decision by the panel of seven judges led by Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, whose judgement was the difference.
The Constitutional Court judgement that was being challenged in the Supreme Court ruled that the lifting of the presidential age limit was constitutional, giving President Yoweri Museveni the leeway to contest in 2021.
Basically, whatever the Constitutional Court ruled has remained intact.
Here is how the session transpired:
The Supreme Court, the highest court of the land, has powers to uphold decisions from the lower courts, reverse them and to substitute judgments or to order for a new trial.
On Thursday, to begin with, Chief Justice Katureebe started off by apologising for the delay in the delivery of the verdict, saying the case was complex.
"We reserved the judgement on notice but the case is complex. If you file 30,000 pages of pleadings, it takes alot of time because we are also humam beings who can follow victim. This time around I am the victim, I underwent surgery and I was supposed to go for a second, but I halted it to deliver this judgement," he said.
Lady Jusctice Stella Arach Amoko:
Lady Justice Stella Arach Amoko was the first to deliver her judgement.
She rule that Article 102(b) does not form part of the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution and Parliament has powers to amend it because it does not destroy it, as the people retain power to elect the president of their choice.
Justice Stella Arach Amoko dismissed the appeal and exonerated the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga. She asked the parties to meet their legal costs.
She also said the petitioner Male Mabirizi's complaint that he was evicted from the court seat lacked merit. The reason? He has yet to be called to the bar because he has not acquired a postgraduate diploma in legal practice.
Justice Eldad Mwangusya:
In his judgement, Justice Eldad Mwangusya said there was no bill for the President to assent to because there was no valid certificate of compliance. He allowed the petitioners' prayer for nullification of the Constitutional Court ruling.
The judge struck out the Age Limit Act, citing procedural irregularities.
At this point, the morning session was done and court took a break with the ruling at 1:1.
After the lunch time break, the session resumed with the focus on Justice Rubby Opio Aweri next.
Justice Rubby Opio Aweri:
Justice Rubby Opio Aweri upheld the lower court's decision, saying that Article 102 did not fall under the basic structure of the Cconstitution -- meaning it could be amended by the legislative arm of Government.
He said that a president elected has to complete his term even if he clocks the retirement age (of 75 before amendment).
He dismissed the appeal in a topsy-turvy session. The petitioners trailed 1:2 at this point.
Lady Justice Lillian Tibatemwa:
Lillian Tibatemwa-Ekirikubinza allowed the appeal, thereby nullifying the age limit amendment.
She ruled that the certificate of compliance which accompanied the bill was defective because it contained unmentioned provisions and that the President had a duty to bring them to the attention of the Speaker before assenting to it.
However, she noted that amending article 102(b) of the constitution did violate the basic structure doctrine as it did not take away the sovereignity of people to elect their preferred president.
In regard to 'smuggling of the bill', Tibatemwa said the Speaker had no powers to determine the contents of the order paper, which has to be done by the business committee.
In a see-sawing affair it became 2:2.
Justice Paul Mugamba:
Justice Paul Mugamba was the fifth judge to deliver his decision.
He ruled that the Speaker did not have justification to prioritise the motion by Raphael Magyezi, which he argued was hastily introduced onto the order paper.
He said there was proof on record that some legislators who were against the age limit reforms were unlawfully blocked.
The judge said the Constitutional Amendment Act, 2018 was struck down for having been passed in violation of the constitution and Parliament's rules of procedure.
After his decision, the petitioners took the lead at 3:2.
Next up . . .
Justice Jotham Tumwesigye:
Justice Jotham Tumwesigye upheld the Constitutional Court decision, saying the lower court justices did not err in law when they expunged the provisions of the bill which were not contained in the original Magyezi Bill.
"Parliament cannot do the same process over and over because it will be wastage of resources," he ruled.
With Chief Justice Katureebe's ruling the decider, it was now 3:3.
Then came the final nail in the coffin . . .
THE AGE LIMIT RULING IN PICTURES
It was smiles and greetings before the session got under way on Thursday.
A packed, secure courtroom it was.
The Attorney General William Byaruhanga (right) and his deputy Mwesigwa Rukutana took a closer look.
Lawyer petitioner Male Mabirizi had a chat with MPs Allan Ssewanyana and Betty Nambooze.
Ready to start off as a Rukutana mingled with MP Gerald Karuhanga.
Chief Justice Bart Katureebe led the panel of seven judges.
Following proceedings closely.
A ruling that attracted a lot of media attention was attended by Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine).
Each judge deliver their judgement.
There were breaks in between the session. In one of them, petitioner Mabirizi talked to the press.
MPs Jonathan Odur and Winnie Kiiza chatted with Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago during the second break.
When legal brains come together . . .
Court back in session.
The session dragged on for hours . . .
Red was the choice of colour for some people, particularly Opposition MPs, who attended the session.
In the end, the final decision had to go one way . . .
The petitioners' camp was left disappointed, with Luwago calling it a "sad day".
It defeat for Mabirizi, who was one of the petitioners.
Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana addressed reporters outside of the courtroom after a triumphant decision by the Supreme Court.