Bobi Wine social media tax case halted, sent to Constitutional court

There was heavy security deployment at the court premises

There was heavy security deployment at the court premises

The case in which National Unity Platform president Robert Kyagulanyi and four others are charged with disobedience of lawful orders has been referred to the Constitutional court for interpretation. 

The file was sent by Buganda Road court Grade One magistrate Doreen Olga Karungi. Kyagulanyi is jointly charged with four others including David Lule also known as Selector Davie, Julius Katongole, Edward Ssebuwufu aka Eddie Mutwe and brother Fred Nyanzi Ssentamu.

The group is charged with disobeying sections 5 and 10 of the Public Order Management Act, 2013. Prosecution led by Ivan Kyazze alleges that on July 11, 2018, the accused and others still at large, held a public meeting without notifying police contrary to provisions of the Public Order Management Act (POMA).
The state further alleges that the accused refused to coordinate and cooperate with police to ensure that all participants in the demonstration were unarmed and peaceful.

Kyagulanyi, together with a group of other activists, held a demonstration in downtown Kampala against the Shs 200 excise duty for use of Over the Top (social media) saying it was unfair since Ugandans were already paying for taxes on airtime. A recent report by the World Bank indicated that tax had failed to meet its target as a large section of Ugandans avoided paying the tax by either using virtual private networks (VPNs) which disguise their location or went off social media altogether.  

When the case came up for hearing in February 2020, city lawyer Anthony Wameli asked the court to halt the criminal proceedings and refer the case to the Constitutional court on grounds that his clients are being charged under the laws which contravene provisions of the constitution.

Wameli noted Section 5 and 10 of the POMA that requires a person organizing a public function to notify the police prior in writing, but according to Wameli, this is inconsistent with Article 29 of the constitution which guarantees freedoms of assembly and association.

In her ruling today Thursday, the magistrate noted that her court lacks powers to interpret constitutional provisions and decided to forward the file to the Constitutional court for interpretation. Karungi also halted the criminal proceedings pending the outcome from the Constitutional court.

She has also issued criminal summons against Julius Katongole, Fred Nyanzi Ssentamu and Robert Kyagulanyi who were absent as she delivered the ruling. She also directed the parties to return to court on November 5, 2020, to update her on the progress and feedback from the Constitutional court regarding this matter.

Earlier, roads leading to Buganda Road court had been blocked from the neighbouring Central police station. There was also heavy security deployment outside the court premises.
© 2016 Observer Media Ltd