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Uganda: Supreme Court fails deadline for verdict on age limit case

Kampala. The Supreme Court has failed to beat the two-month deadline to deliver the judgment of the constitutional appeal against the removal of the presidential age limit clause in the constitution.

The highest court of appeal should have ordinarily delivered its verdict on Saturday. The judgment of the final court of appeal has a huge bearing on the 2021 General Election.

The appeal is challenging the removal of the age limit (75years) on the presidency which would have barred President Museveni from seeking re-election in 2021. Mr Museveni now aged 74 will be above 75 in 2021.

Chief Justice Bart Katureebe and six other justices of the Supreme Court concluded the hearing of the age limit appeal on January 16 and said the judgment would be given on notice.

The Uganda Code of Judicial Conduct gives court two months to deliver a judgment that has been put on notice from the date of concluding the hearing.

“A judicial officer shall promptly dispose of the business of the court, but in so doing must ensure that justice prevails. Protracted trial of a case must be avoided wherever possible.

Where a judgment is reserved, it should be delivered within 60 days unless for good reason it is not possible to do so,” reads Section 6.2 of the Uganda Code of Judicial Conduct.

Efforts to reach the Chief Justice about the status of the judgment were futile as he was reportedly out of the country.

However, Mr Vincent Emmy Mugabo, the Supreme Court registrar, who also is the spokesperson of the Judiciary, said the justices have already met and compared notes and the verdict should be out any time.

“The justices have held their meetings and very soon, they should be delivering their judgment,” Mr Mugabo said at the weekend.

At the conclusion of the hearing of the appeal in January, the Chief Justice mused when he asked one of the appellants, Mr Male Mabirizi Kiwanuka, not to drag him to court if he did not beat the two-month deadline for delivery of the judgment.

Mr Katureebe had said since there are seven justices that heard the appeal, each of them is expected to come up with their individual judgments and that the judgment writing process might take a little longer.

On July 26 last year, the Constitutional Court sitting in Mbale District, in a majority decision of 4:1, upheld the scrapping of the presidential age limit clauses from the Constitution by Parliament.

However the same court in a unanimous decision struck down the extension of the term of the current Parliament and Local Councils from five to seven years.

Three petitioners appealed the judgement. They are: the Uganda Law Society, six Opposition MPs and city lawyer, Mr Mabirizi.

The appellants are seeking the Supreme Court to quash the Constitutional Court decision and restore clause 102(b) on the presidential age limit in the Constitution.

They argue that the age limit clause was the only remaining safeguard left in the Constitution to deter leaders who want to cling onto power.

They said the framers of the 1995 Constitution had stated in the preamble that ‘never again’ should Uganda be plunged into the ugly dark past of violence and that the safeguards such as presidential term and age limit clauses were intended to ensure peaceful transfer of power from one leader to another.

Mr Erias Lukwago, one of the lawyers of the petitioners, argued during the hearing that the amendment of Article 102 (b) by 317 MPs, was calculated to perpetuate President Museveni in power and entrench life presidency.

The government legal team led by the Attorney General, Mr William Byaruhanga, refuted the arguments and asked the Supreme Court to uphold the majority judgment of the Constitutional Court on removal of presidential age limit.

By Daily Monitor

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