Forum For Democratic Change (FDC) has welcomed and jubilated the nullification of section 168 (1) (c and d) of the Penal Code Act that creates an offence commonly known as being Idle and disorderly.
Speaking to the media at the party headquarters in Kampala, John Kikonyogo, the party deputy spokespersons said this “draconian law” plus a couple of others like Public Management Order Act have been used as a tool to clamp down on political engagements majorly the opposition.
He explained that this was done with the objective of instilling fear in opposition political actors making it hard to realize the democratic principle of freedom of association.
“Hopefully the court decision stands because the NRM regime will use its machinery and trickery to further reinstate it, due to the fact its political survival entirely thrives on the muzzling of the opponents yet we are in a multi-party dispensation, “he said.
Kikonyogo said he hopes this law and other small crimes (felonies, Misdemeanors, and infractions) can be disbanded from court and empower local councils who live and dine with the same people.
Couple of days ago, in a lead judgment written by justice Fredrick Egonda Ntende, the five-judge panel held unanimously that the law was null and void because it infringes on a number of constitutional provisions.
Francis Tumwesige Ateenyi, who filed the petition argued that Section 168(1, c and d) of the Penal Code Act were unconstitutional because they contravene articles; 20 (1) and (2) 21 (2), 23 (1, c) 28 (3, a) and 12 and 29 2(2) of the Constitution.
Section 168 (1,c) of the Penal Code Act provides that any suspected person or reputed thief who has no visible means of subsistence shall be deemed a rogue and vagabond and commits an offence punishable with imprisonment.
Tumwesige argued that this offence is not sufficiently defined contrary to article 28 (12) which requires every offence to be defined in law.
He also stated that this offence is vague and permits the police to arbitrarily arrest and detain any person in the absence of reasonable suspicion and on the assumption of an illegal and disorderly purpose contravening article 21 (1) of the constitution that guarantees equality before the law and article 28(3) which presumes innocence for anyone charged with a criminal offence.
The petition also contended that the offence contravenes article 21 (2) for criminalizing being a reputed thief simply on the account of social status contravening the right to personal liberty guaranteed in article 23 (1) 23 (4b) of the constitution.