The Constitution is Uganda’s guiding order. It has organized the country’s governance character and infused accountable governance, public service and responsible citizenship.
The judiciary therefore, bears the supreme duty of giving the Constitution comprehensible interpretation that is stable, consistent, predictable and certain.
The judiciary must be guided in interpretation of the Constitution by the cardinal principle which is universally accepted.
This principle is that the entire constitution has to be read as an integrated whole and no particular provision destroying the other but each sustaining the other.
Constitutional provisions must be construed as a whole in harmony with each other without in-subordinating anyone provision to the other.
These principles crystallise the deliverables of public goods such of the nature demanded of the court when a petition is lodged for interpretation.
Of course, the legal dictum that bad cases make bad law was at play at Mbale rendering the court powerless to deliver what would have been a landmark ruling.
The submissions made to the court by the various petitioners did not contain material which a constitutional court delving in the law and evidence before it could use in a Constitutional interpretation on any novel point of law.
The petitioners would have rendered the public a great service if they had done their home work and read the constitutional provisions which Hon. Raphael Magyezi had sought to amend.
In this exercise, they would have sought to identify any article or articles of the Constitution which the amendment had violated or any Parliamentary procedural rules which had been skipped.
The Petitioners did nothing of the sort, instead, they rushed to the Constitutional court alleging various constitutional violations which could not be discerned in the uncoordinated petitions.
On the other hand, it was incumbent upon the Members of Parliament on receiving the report from the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee to read the report and satisfy themselves that the report handled matters which were forwarded to it for scrutiny.
If the Honourable Members had read that report, they would have found out that it included matters which were exterior to the draft bill sent to it for scrutiny.
Matters to do with extension of the term of Parliament and local government councils and the limits on the tenure of the term of the President were not part of the bill.
Hon Members of Parliament on reading that report would have simply expunged matters which were included by members of the legal affairs committee on their own.
Obviously if the Hon. Members of Parliament had read the report of the committee and done what was expected of them, the five constitutional petitions would not have happened.
That they happened at all, is a sad reflection of the slow descend to apathy and mediocrity slowly eating up the body politic.
As a consequence, the constitutional court had no material before it upon which to make an intellectual analysis on any novel point of law and therefore had no opportunity to pronounce a historical landmark ruling.
It is sad that what would have been a none issue to be dismissed by the court at a preliminary level (and probably would have taken a little under three hours of court’s time and covered just under five pages) ended up taking months, consuming vast resources and delivered in a verdict covering eight hundred and fourteen pages.
It will be a nightmare for law students to pinpoint the ratio decidendi in this constitutional ruling.
It was a no land mark case and should never have consumed the time and resources of our judicial system.
It is a lamentation at the ineptitude of our law makers who failed the electorate in the most elementary of the duties of a Parliamentarian.
It is a shuddering thought that our young and fragile democracy may tumble and perhaps fail.
The author is a senior partner at Kampala Associated Advocates