BY ANNE MUGISA
On April 3, the Constitutional Court nullified sections of three laws related to local governments. These include the Local Government Act, the National Womenâ€™s Council Act and the National Youth Council Act.
The move followed a petition by Maj. Rubaramira Ruranga, challenging the constitutionality of the laws. Rubaramiraâ€™s contention was that the impending LC1 and LC2 elections, as well as the women and youth councils, could not be held under the same provisions of the law, since the country is currently under a multi-party system.
Since the ruling, however, confusion has reigned among the public about the implications of the ruling. Many people think with the court ruling, the said provisions and all the actions taken under them were nullified.
However, this is an erroneous assumption. The Constitutional Court was clear that the provisions were unconstitutional. This in effect nullifies them. It, however, does not nullify the actions that were taken under the same provisions because at that time, the provisions were deemed valid.
The enactment or nullification of a law does not work retrospectively to validate or invalidate actions already taken.
What the Constitutional Court did in effect was to notify the executive and Parliament that the given provisions of the said laws are unconstitutional and, therefore, corrective measures needed to be taken.
In similar circumstances, there were other laws which were challenged and nullified before the Constitutional Court. Actions taken when they were still valid are still recognised as legal. Such laws include provisions of the Adultery and Succession laws, which were nullified recently. The divorces effected and punishments meted out when the adultery law was still in force, will remain binding to the concerned parties.
The same also applies to the Referendum and (Other Political Systems) Act 2000.
The petitioners had challenged the act saying that it was passed without a quorum. They contended that the system, where the members only shouted â€˜ayeâ€™ or â€˜nayâ€™ (no) to indicate their vote cannot show the numbers who voted for what.
The act was challenged before the Referendum was held, but by the time the Constitutional Court gave its ruling, the Referendum had been done.
The Constitutional Court agreed with the petitioners that the voice voting (aye or nay) in Parliament did not give a precise vote. This ruling did not affect the results of the referendum that was carried out under the Act, despite the fact that the petition challenging it had been filed before it.
In its ruling about the local councils, the court stated: The executive needs to initiate an amendment in Parliament, of the concerned provisions of these laws to reflect the embraced multi-party system. The court did not pronounce itself on whether the councils were illegal or not.
The ruling halted the process of electing the local councils, including the Women and the Youth councils, which had been started, until the amendments have been effected.
The question is where does that put the local councils that have been in place? The ministries of Justice, Constitutional Affairs and Attorney General and of local government say that the local councils still remain in place until the law is amended and new councils elected.
Today, the current LCs at the first and second levels are still in office until a new law comes into force.