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Age limit: Justice Barishaki rules bill was legal but scoffs at ‘selfish’ MPs for extending tenure

Okays return of presidential term limit but also agrees with lifting of controversial age limit

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MBALE JUDGEMENT – Justice Cheborion Barishaki has ruled that the re-introduction of presidential term limits into the Constitution was good and that the age limit bill was legal and constitutional.

Delivering his judgement from the Constitutional Court sitting in Mbale District on Thursday, Barishaka said term limit was a good clause to have in the Constitution given the history of the country.

He said Parliament can introduce an entrenched clause into the Constitution, but he poured cold water on the petition against presidential age limit, saying the argument by the petitioners that amendment usurped the sovereignty of the people is not tenable.

“There was a bill, there was debate, there was consultation,” he argued, “age limit amendment was legal and constitutional.”

He said in enacting Articles 3 and 7 of the amendment act, Parliament acted legally and “I hold that the two articles are constitutional.”

“The argument by the petitioners that amendment of presidential age limits violated people’s sovereignty not tenable. There was a bill, there was debate, and there was consultation.”

Justice Barishaki disagreed with Age Limit petitioners that a private member’s bill shouldn’t receive any government financial help.

He said the Shs29 million MPs were given for facilitation didn’t occasion any charge on consolidated fund but additional amendments did as would’ve called for a referendum.

“The Constitution must serve the people and not the other way round. Constitution’s role is to uphold and respect the will of the people. Constitution must be beyond the reach temporary excitement & popular passion of majority for quick & routine amendments,” he said.

Barishaka quashed petitioner Male Hassan Mabirizi Kiwanuka’s submission that the public was denied access to Parliament during Age Limit debate.

“No evidence was provided,” he said.

‘Suspension of MPs justified’

On suspension of six MPs from Parliament, Justice Barishaka said the Speaker acted within her mandate to suspend the disruptive MPs.

“Without internal mechanism and control the assembly would be impotent,” he said, but did not appear to have taken into account the fact that soldiers were present at Parliament to carry out mandate of Police, or that the said soldiers had accessed Parliament long before the chaos.

But he said prevailing circumstances in the country must be taken into consideration.

“Court can’t ignore the challenge of space in Parliament. Not closing doors wasn’t of most fundamental nature to render the amendment of the Act unconstitutional.”

On the police directive that barred MPs from consulting outside their constituencies, the judge said he found it surprising that the custodians of the law (police) were the ones limiting the right to free movement.

He also said, moreover MPs belong to different political parties, and it is expected that they would consult and rally support together with like-minded colleagues.

The other justices of the Constitutional Court set to deliver their rulings are Deputy Chief Justice Alphonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo, Remmy Kasule, Kenneth Kakuru, and Elizabeth Musoke

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