Court petitions challenging the legality of the ‘Age Limit’ law have been moved from Kampala to Mbale in what the Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo termed as “marathon” hearings.
The petitions against the Constitution Amendment Act were filed in the Constitutional Court in Kampala and were expected to be heard there.
During the heated Parliamentary sessions leading to the enactment of the now contested Constitution Amendment Act, several private citizens and a section of the Opposition lawmakers filed several petitions against Parliament.
In the conferencing at Twed Towers, the official seat of the Constitutional Court, Justice Owiny-Dollo asked the petitioners’ lawyers to agree and consolidate the various petitions for proper hearing.
Karuhanga and five other MPs are challenging a decision by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to expel them at the height of the debate on the controversial Constitution Amendment Act.
The others are MPs Jonathan Odur (UPC, Erute South), Ibrahim Ssemujju (FDC, Kira Municipality), Mubarak Munyagwa (FDC, Kawempe South), Allan Ssewanyana (DP, Makindye West) and Anthony Akol (FDC, Kilak North).
Others who filed similar petitions separately are former Presidential candidate Abed Bwanika, city lawyer Male Mabirizi, the Uganda Law Society and some private citizens from Toro who are represented by lawyer Prosper Busingye.
They all seek to, among other prayers, have the Constitution Amendment Act quashed by the Constitutional Court.
Led by Senior Counsel Wandera Ogalo, the parties grudgingly agreed to consolidate the petitions.
The move to Mbale, however, was not embraced by some parties.
Lawyer Erias Lukwago, also Kampala Lord Mayor, who is representing a section of MPs led by Hon. Gerald Karuhanga (Ind., Ntungamo Munic.), said the move would inconvenience his clients.
“My issue is about the capacity of our clients to commute to Mbale…I find it extremely difficult to support their team my Lord,” said Lukwago.
Justice Owiny-Dollo, however, said their protest against having the hearings in Mbale points to unseriousness.
“This amendment, right from the time it was proposed, was a matter you claimed was so principle that the future of the country rested on it. If we believe these are serious matters, we must all be ready to sacrifice,” he said.
The petitioners’ lawyers sentiments against travelling to Mbale, said Justice Owiny-Dollo, “never makes sense to me at all.”
Ms Christine Kaahwa, the Director Civil Litigation in the Attorney General’s Chambers blamed the parties for delayed service of the petitions on government.
Justice Owiny-Dollo said Court will convene on March 27, 2018 to determine the matters for trial and frame all the issues.
The hearing begins on April 4, 2018 at the Mbale High Court which will be proclaimed to be the Constitutional Court for purposes of the petition.
The Constitution Amendment Act, which passed late last year, among others changed qualifications for presidential candidates by removing the upper age limit of 75 and bringing the lower age limit to 18.
The Act also extended the term of Parliament from 5 to 7 years, starting with the current 10th Parliament.