The Constitutional Court in Kampala has today nullified the whole of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015 which also prohibited the sale and use of several narcotic and cannabis drugs in Uganda.
In his ruling, Justice Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi said, “In the premises, I would declare the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, 2015 null and void for lack of quorum on the part of parliament contrary to articles 88 and 89 of the Constitution and rule 23 of the Rules of Procedure of the 9th Parliament, 2012 made, pursuant to articles 88 and 94 of the Constitution.”
The decision followed a petition raised by farmers of Miraa in 2017 against the law that described the crop as a narcotic drug and consequently banned it in the country.
The farmers of the miraa under their association, Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association Ltd, petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking for overturning of the decision of parliament which they said was inconsistent with principles of legality, equality, rationality and proportionality guaranteed under the constitution since they were never consulted.
Both Cannabis and Miraa dealers argued that they were aggrieved over the manner in which the law seeks to prohibit the cultivation, possession, consumption, sale, purchase, warehousing, distribution, transportation, exportation, importation and other dealings in the crop arguing that this decision was not backed up by any evidence, scientific or otherwise.
On Friday, the Constitutional Court ruled that the manner in which the entire law was enacted was illegal and the only remedy was repealing it.
According to the panel of five justices including the Deputy Chief Justice, Richard Buteera, Justice Stephen Musota, Justice Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi, Justice Irene Mulyagonja and Justice Monica K . Mugyenyi the rules of procedure in parliament require for a quorum before any bill is passed, adding that the rules also provide for what constitutes the quorum and the obligation of the speaker in confirming its existence.
“At the stage of voting, the bill must receive the sufficient number of votes in order for it to be lawfully passed. The sufficient number of votes is prescribed by Article 89(1) of the Constitution. They comprise the majority of the quorum.”
The Justices of the Constitutional Court therefore ruled that any bill passed without the above procedure being followed is null and void.
“I have already established that from the above evidence before this court, the speaker failed to ascertain the quorum as required by rule 23(3) of the rules of procedure of the 9th parliament, 2012. I have also made a finding that the evidence before court supported the petitioners’ claim that there was no quorum at the time of passing the bill for the enactment of the act,” Justice Kibeedi ruled.
While repealing the law, Justice Kibeedi said that the evidence before this court was that said provisions of the impugned Act were not handled by Parliament independent of the rest of the provisions of the Act.
“As such, there is nothing about the impugned Act to be saved,” he ruled.