Lawyers body challenges NEMA penalty scheme for motorists without dustbins in cars

The Uganda Law Society (ULS) has called upon Police to desist from enforcing the express penalty scheme by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to penalise motorists without dustbins in their cars.

In a statement, the president of ULS Bernard Oundo again argued that the offence that is being introduced is not prescribed by the Ugandan law, adding that the National Environment Management Act, 2019 does not provide for the offence of driving a car without a dustbin.

This is the second time the lawyer’s body writes to NEMA regarding the issue but the authority has since refused to respond.

In his March 16 letter to the authority, Oundo said the Constitution provides that no person is to be convicted of a criminal offence unless the offence is defined and the penalty for it provided by law.

“Our request to you was for the law that prescribes the offence of motorists not carrying a dustbin in their vehicles. We pointed out that the Constitution requires that every offence be defined and penalty provided by law,” he said in another letter seen by the Nile Post.

“Your claim that carrying a dustbin is in fulfilment of a motorist's responsibility for waste generated in a vehicle does not address the issue,” he added.

He insisted that the National Environment Act does not create the offence of a motorist failing to carry a dustbin, adding that the authority cannot create it by interpretation.

He explained that the Act prescribes the offence of littering and empowers the Minister to make additional provisions relating to littering.

This power has not been exercised and as it stands there is no legal requirement for motorists to carry dustbins in their vehicles, according to Oundo.

“We call upon Uganda Police to desist from enforcing any alleged offence that is not prescribed in the law. While we share your concern for protection of the environment, your effort must abide by the law and our constitution,” he said.

In February this year, the Executive Director of NEMA, Barirega Akankwasa, announced the introduction of this express penalty scheme that is aimed at curbing environmental pollution and preventing degradation as well.

From April 1(Tomorrow), 2023, individuals violating environmental laws such as littering from commercial buildings or throwing trash out of car windows will face an instant fine of Shs 6 million.

Littering around residential premises and commercial buildings will also attract a Shs 6m fine.

Failure to conduct environmental and social impact assessments for projects may attract fines up to Shs 1 billion or 15 years in prison, corporate entities that breach this provision could pay up to Shs 6 billion.

The express penalty scheme, modelled after the one used by traffic police, enables instant justice administration for those who degrade the environment.

Recently, Police said they had started an awareness campaign together with NEMA in a bid to popularise the new express penalty scheme.

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