Constitutional Court Annuls Section 25 of Computer Misuse Act

The Section among others constituted a charge of offensive communication that has been carrying a maximum penalty of 5 years upon conviction.

The computer Misuse Act was introduced by Kampala Central MP, Mr Muhammad Nsereko (Photo/File)

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The Constitutional Court in Kampala has nullified Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act which relates to using electronic devices to willfully disturb the peace of another.

The Section among others constituted a charge of offensive communication that has been carrying a maximum penalty of 5 years upon conviction.

In a unanimous decision of five justices on Tuesday afternoon, the justices agreed that Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act be scrapped for not only being vague or overly broad to define the actual offense committed but also curtails the inherent freedoms of speech and expression that are guaranteed in the Constitution.

READ ALSO: Rights Watchdog Sues Gov’t in Regional Court over Computer Misuse Law

“I find that the impugned Section is unjustifiable as it curtails the freedom of speech in a free and democratic society. Secondly, Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act No. 2 of 2011 does not specify what conduct constitutes offensive communication. To that extent, it does not afford sufficient guidance for legal debate. Thirdly it is vague, overly 30 broad and ambiguous,” the Court ruling led by Deputy Chief Justice Richard Butera reads in part.

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“Therefore, I find that the impugned section is inconsistent with and/or in contravention of Article 29 (1) of the Constitution, Article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 9(2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” the ruling adds.

According to Justice Buteera, it would be unjustified to maintain this Section of the Act in a free and democratic society when Uganda convened international treaties on freedoms and people’s rights.

Consequently, the court has awarded costs to the two petitioners including; human rights activists Andrew Karamagi and Robert Shaka and declared the section of the act as null and void.

Background of the law

President Museveni on Thursday, October 13, 2022, signed into law the controversial Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill 2022 which criminalizes unauthorized access to data and prohibits the sharing of data relating to children without authorization from parents or guardians.

The Bill which now becomes an Act of Parliament was passed by August House on September 8, 2022 amid criticism from several human rights defenders and other stakeholders who argued that it was drafted in bad faith, to protect the corrupt while penalising those demanding for accountability from their leaders.

he legislation, which was introduced by Kampala Central MP, Mr Muhammad Nsereko, listed a raft of punitive measures against people who send malicious information, hate speech, unsolicited information and sharing information about children without the consent of their parents or guardians. The punishment for the convicted person is Shs15 million or a seven-year jail term, if not both.

The law also criminalises writing, sending or sharing of any information through a computer, which is likely to ridicule, degrade or demean another person, group of persons, tribe, ethnicity, religion, or gender; create divisions among persons, a tribe, an ethnicity, a religion or gender; and or, promote hostility against a person, group of persons, a tribe, an ethnicity group, a religion or gender.

The law also prohibits sending or sharing false, malicious and unsolicited information.

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