Supreme Court paves way for constitutional petition

Richard Mugisha (right) engages his legal team . Courtesy.

The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that a petition against some sections of the Penal Code could go ahead as they met all legal requirements.

The petition was filed local lawyer Richard Mugisha through his lawyers Moise Nkundabarashi and Florida Kabasinga of Certa law firm.

Early in December, Mugisha through his lawyers,  filed a constitutional petition challenging the provisions in the penal law that came into force in August 2018.

Mugisha who is also a senior partner and co-founder of Trust Law Chambers challenged six articles namely: Insults or defamation against the President of the Republic (Art: 236, humiliation of national authorities and persons in charge of public service (Art: 233) and Public defamation of religious rituals (Art: 154)

Others are desertion of the marital home (Art: 139), Adultery (Art: 136) and Concubinage (Art: 138).

Explaining article per article, Mugisha, through his lawyers argued that some of the provisions in the new penal law were against the letter and spirit of the constitution and some conventions to which Rwanda is a signatory.

However, Principal State Attorney Speciose Kabibi challenged the legitimacy of Mugisha’s petition saying that he was not directly affected by any of the articles he was challenging.

The Supreme Court had adjourned the hearing to deliberate on the objections by the principal attorney before the case can proceed to its substantive phase.

And, on Friday, the five senior Judge-bench led by Chief Justice Prof. Sam Rugege ruled in the favour of the petitioner.

“Mugisha's petition is legitimate and he has genuine interest as a citizen to do so,” ruled Rugege

“As a practising lawyer, he represents people and understands legal affairs. He has the right to petition provisions that contravene the letter and spirit of the Rwandan Constitution" he added

Rugege ordered all concerned parties to submit their written submissions before the February 28 when the trial resumes.