KAMPALA. The petition in which cigarette manufacturer, British American Tobacco Uganda Limited (BAT Uganda) is challenging the constitutionality of the law controlling the demand of tobacco, its products and supply, awaits judgment.
In 2016, BAT Uganda petitioned the Constitutional Court in Kampala challenging the Tobacco Control Act of 2015, alleging that they are in contravention and or inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.The law was gazetted on November 28, 2015.
A panel of five judges of the Constitutional Court led by Deputy Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo on Wednesday said they will consider submissions made in May 2017 and deliver their judgment on notice.
Other Justices include Kenneth Kakuru, Frederick Egonda-Ntende, Christopher Madrama and Ezekiel Muhanguzi.
The court’s pronouncement followed BAT Uganda lawyer’s request for court to adopt oral and written submissions made before the panel led by former Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma in 2017.
“This matter had been adjourned to today for re-hearing, but we wish to inform this court that we have agreed to adopt the written submissions on court record made on May 17, 2017,” Mr James Mukasa Ssebugenyi, the lawyer representing BAT Uganda said on Wednesday.
According to the petition, BAT contends that the Tobacco Control Act has the effect of unjustifiably singling out the tobacco industry for discriminative treatment and amounts to a ban on right to trade and consume a legal product which contravenes the right to freedom from discrimination.
Through its lawyers; BAT wants the Constitutional Court to declare that Section 15(2) of the Constitution contravenes Articles 40(2), 26 and 29(1) of the same Constitution.
However, the Attorney General (AG) states that the passing and operationalisation of the law that restricts and regulates the consumption of tobacco and its products in public places is proportionate given the harmful effects to health.
“The respondent (AG) shall contend that the economic consequences of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke include an extra-ordinary economic burden on the government, individuals and societies,” the government states.
The AG adds: “This has led to among other consequences like health care costs for treatment borne by government, lost work days, disability and premature deaths.”
The Tobacco Control Act prohibits smoking in public places like bars, cinemas, workplaces and means of transport.
The government states that the requirement to exhibit health messages that occupy no less than 65 per cent on the cigarette packet is intended to communicate harmful effects of tobacco use to all including the illiterate and children.