Age Limit Petition: Should speaker of parliament be summoned?

Age Limit Petition: Should speaker of parliament be summoned?
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga

The question on whether the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga should be summoned took the centre stage on Monday as the constitutional court opened hearing into the petition challenging the amendment the constitution to lift the Presidential age limit.

Parliament passed the Constitutional Amendment Act on December 20, 2017. The amendment assented to by the President removed presidential age limits previously under Article 102(b) of the Constitution.

It also extended the term of office for the President, Members of Parliament and Local governments for seven years. The court sitting in Mbale is also expected to deliver judgment on the constitutionality of extending the term of office for the President, Parliament and Local Governments for seven years.

Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo is leading a panel of five judges hearing a consolidated petition filed by MPS, Uganda Law Society and Male Mabiriizi.

The petitioners have lined up several lawyers including Ladislaus Rwakafuzi, Elias Lukwago among others with Wandera Ogalo as their lead counsel. The government side is among other represented by Deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana for the respondent.

During the submission, lawyers representing the petitioners sought leave from court seeking to have the Speaker Of Parliament, the Clerk to Parliament and Sergeant at Arms and Burahya MP, Margret Muhanga summoned for examination as witnesses.

Muhanga according to court records has sworn an affidavit in support of the amendment pass by Parliament last year.

The Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana shot up in protest against the application to have the speaker summoned.

Quoting Article 97(1) of the Constitution, Rukutana said the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker. Members of Parliament and any other person participating or acting with or reporting proceedings of parliament are entitled to immunity and privileges as determined by parliament.

Rukutana in effect said that the Speaker and other Parliamentary officials were immune to being summoned to court as witnesses in respect to parliamentary proceedings.

His stand attracted protracted arguments as the petitioners seemed to disagree with his interpretation. Some of the judges on the Coram also seemed to disagree with Rukutana.

Justice Kenneth Kakuru was the first to react to Hon. Rukutana’s submission. He maintained that a law made by an Act of Parliament cannot override a substantial provision of the constitution.

Justice Kakuru said Rukutana’s argument would only stand if the privileges and immunities cited had been provided for under the constitution. He wondered whether there is a possibility that the Speaker is immune from the constitution of Uganda.

Deputy Chief Justice, Alphonse Owiny-Dollo wondered whether the Speaker of Parliament cannot be summoned to clarify before the court to explain certain things.

Rukutana later seemed to have yielded to guidance by the judges in respect to the immunity to the Speaker of Parliament.

The court did not indicate whether Rebecca Kadaga, her deputy Jacob Oulanyah and a section of Parliamentary staff will be summoned for cross-examination.

The petitioners also want Chief of Defense Forces, General David Muhoozi summoned for examination over the deployment of the army at parliament. Army men believed to have been deployed from the Special Forces Command of UPDF were reportedly deployed at Parliament and ended up beating opposition Members of Parliament.

They also petitioned the court to also have Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP), Asuman Mugenyi summoned for examination over police action at parliament during the Age limit debate in Parliament.

The Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana objected to the cross-examination of the said persons saying the petitioners had not given reasons stating the reasons why they wanted to examine the witnesses.

The Court later proceeded with submissions mainly by lead Counsel for the petitioners, Wandera Ogalo after all the sides had agreed to some of the issues on which the judges have to consider for the ruling.

The court resumes on Tuesday 10th in the morning to continue with submissions.