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Court rules on anti-gay law tomorrow

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By ANTHONY WESAKA

Posted  Thursday, July 31  2014 at  12:38

In Summary

The ruling could technically dispose of the 5-months court case that is if the court agrees with the arguments of the lawyers representing pro-gay activists that indeed there was no quorum when the Speaker of Parliament passed the Bill on December 20 last year

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KAMPALA.

The Constitutional Court is tomorrow(Friday) expected to deliver its ruling on whether the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga was right to pass the Anti-homosexuality Bill allegedly without the right quorum of two-thirds.

This was after the Principal Sate Attorney Ms Patricia Muteesi, who represented the Attorney General in this matter made her submissions this morning.

The ruling could technically dispose of the 5-months court case that is if the court agrees with the arguments of the lawyers representing pro-gay activists that indeed there was no quorum when the Speaker of Parliament passed the Bill on December 20 last year.

On the contrary, should court rule that there was no evidence presented by the pro-gay activists to prove that there was no quorum, then the court will go ahead and hear the matter to its logical conclusion.

This matter involves a group of pro-gay activists who sued the Attorney General (AG) challenging the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law for lack of quorum.

They include; Prof. Joe Oloka-Onyango, MP Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda, Prof. Morris Latigo, Dr. Paul Nsubuga Ssemugoma, Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, Julian Pepe Onziema, and Frank Mugisha in March this year.

The other petitioners include the indigenous civil society organizations; Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) and the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD).

While making her submission this morning, Ms Muteesi argued that the pro-gay activists and in particular MP Fox Odoi and Prof Latigo did not give evidence to back up their claims that there was no quorum in parliament on December 20 2013 when the Bill was being passed.

Ms Muteesi explained that they would have presented evidence like the register for MPs who signed on that day or a video footage to show that indeed the quorum was less than two-thirds.

But while trying to counter-argue Ms Muteesi’s assertions, Mr Caleb Alaka, one of the lawyers representing the pro-gays activists said Rule 23 of the Procedure Rules of Parliament require the Speaker of Parliament to ascertain whether there is quorum or not before voting on any matter.

Mr Alaka added the burden of proof now shifts onto the AG to prove that there was quorum since the AG gives legal advice to all government officials including the Speaker of Parliament who bears the burden of ascertaining whether there is quorum or not.

Mr John Francis Onyango another lawyer for the pro-gay activists, asked court to declare the Anti homosexuality Act null and void.
Mr Onyango argued that Parliament ignored the conditions of law making that are imposed on them by the constitution and should therefore suffer the consequences.

Prior to today’s court hearing, Mr Nicholas Opiyo, another lawyer who is representing the pro-gay activists; faulted Ms Kadaga for having ignored the warning raised the leader of government business in Parliament Amama Mbabazi and went ahead to pass the Anti Homosexuality Bill into law without required quorum.

Upon listening to arguments from both sides, Justice Steven Kavuma, the Acting Deputy Chief Justice who is heading the panel of five justices, said court will give its ruling tomorrow at 9:30am.
The other judges on the panel are justices Augustine Nshimye, Eldad Mwangusya, Solomy Balungi Bossa and Rubby Aweri Opio. Present at Court were renowned anti-gay pastors Martin Sempa and Bishop David Kiganda, among others.