Gov’t Appeals Nullification of Narcotic Drugs Act

The Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka, has filed a notice of appeal against the decision of the Constitutional Court nullifying the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Control Act of 2016.

In his notice to the Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Franklin Uwizera, writing on behalf of the Solicitor General, Francis Atoke, says that the Attorney General is dissatisfied with the ruling.

“The Attorney General is dissatisfied with the ruling and orders in the captured matter by the Constitutional Court presided by Hon Mr. Justice Richard Buteera Deputy Chief Justice, Hon Mr. Justice Stephen Musota JCC, Hon Mr. Justice Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi, Hon Lady Justice Irene Mulyagonja JCC and Jon Lady Justice Monica K Mugyenyi and issued on May 5th, 2023”, reads the letter.

The May 24th, 2023 letter requests the Court to provide a certified copy of the ruling and the record of proceedings in Constitutional Petition Number One of 2017, which involved the case of Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association Limited versus the Attorney General.

To demonstrate the government’s commitment to the appeal, the letter is accompanied by a notice of appeal that has been duly received and stamped by both the Court of Appeal and the Centre for Legal Aid, the legal representatives of the petitioners.

The government’s decision to appeal stems from a successful petition filed in 2017 by Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association Limited against the Attorney General.

The petitioners contested the constitutionality of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act, specifically its prohibition and criminalization of Catha edulis (Khat), commonly known as Miraa or Mairungi in Uganda.

They argued that the prohibition lacked scientific evidence and infringed upon their livelihoods, property rights, and cultural and socioeconomic well-being as Miraa farmers, sellers, and consumers.

On May 5th, 2023, a panel of Constitutional Court Justices, led by Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera, unanimously allowed the petition and nullified the entire law based on the absence of a quorum, without delving into the other grounds raised in the petition.

In response to the nullification, the Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association wrote to the Speaker of Parliament and the Minister for Internal Affairs, seeking an opportunity for meaningful consultation. They emphasized that their primary concern was the lack of sufficient prior consultation, rather than solely the absence of quorum.

Isaac Ssemakadde, the lawyer representing the Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association, characterized the Attorney General’s appeal as misguided. He acknowledged the government’s concerns but argued that the appeal failed to address the core issue revealed by the Constitutional Court. The Speaker of Parliament, Anita Anent Among had previously set a timeline for the Attorney General to reintroduce the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Bill.

However, the Attorney General’s request for additional time was denied. If the government does not take prompt action, Bugiri Municipality Member of Parliament Asuman Basalirwa may introduce the bill as a Private Members Bill.

The proposed legislation aims to regulate the possession, trafficking, and cultivation of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances while addressing the forfeiture of property derived from illicit drug activities.

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