The Constitutional Court in Kampala has repealed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, 2015 which among others prohibited the sale and use of several narcotic and cannabis drugs in Uganda.
“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,” Justice Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi said in a lead judgment.
The decision followed a petition filed by Miraa farmers challenging the law that classified the crop as a narcotic drug and, as a result, banned its importation into the country.
In the 2017 petition, the farmers of the crop under their umbrella body, 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.
This afternoon, 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 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 a sufficient number of votes in order for it to be lawfully passed. A sufficient number of votes is prescribed by Article 89(1) of the Constitution. They consist of 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 the 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.
In repealing the entire act, Justice Kibeedi ruled that since the provisions that banned dealing in narcotic drugs were not handled by parliament independent of the rest of the provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, 2015, it is only prudent that the entire law is nullified.
“As such, there is nothing about the impugned act to be saved,” he ruled, before nullifying the law and granting costs to the petitioner.