The High Court Civil Division in Kampala has granted the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) the permission to destroy all communication equipment confiscated from known and unknown illegal operators across the country.
The application whose ruling was made by the High Court Judge Musa Ssekaana on Friday was brought by UCC under a Notice of Motion below Section 33 of the Judicature Act, Section 98 of the Civil Procedure Act and Section 5(1), 6(2), 27, 78, and 82 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013 and Order 52 r 1 and 2 of the Civil Procedure Rules.
UCC brought this application seeking An ORDER authorizing the destruction of all communication equipment confiscated from known and unknown illegal operators across Uganda between January 2017 and 30th December 2022 by UCC officers in accordance with section 6 of the Uganda Communications Act.
UCC in its application alluded that over the years between 2017 to 2022, its officers have confiscated several illegally possessed, installed, connected or operated apparatus and the owners/persons from whom apparatuses have been confiscated have neither appealed such confiscation to the relevant authorities, tribunal or court nor formally claimed the same in any way.
Secondly, most of the confiscated items are not only illegal under the Uganda Communications Act of 2013 but their unauthorized use is also not permitted under the National Environment Act 2019 and Uganda National Bureau of Standards.
UCC also revealed that whilst section 6(2) of the Uganda Communications Act 2013 only empowers it to confiscate such illegally possessed, installed, connected or operated apparatus, however, the law is silent on the actions that the applicant (UCC) may take in respect of such confiscated apparatus.
It also cautioned that considering that most of the confiscated apparatus or equipment are either hazardous to human life, sub-standard, or no longer usable by reason of a change in technologies (technological advancement), or storage, the UCC, as a regulator of the communications sector in Uganda would not like the same to be returned to the market.
In its application, UCC also informed the court that the best way to dispose of such confiscated and potentially hazardous apparatus is by way of destruction. And it had contracted Luwero Industries Limited, an entity that is duly accredited by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to destroy illegally possessed, installed, connected or operated apparatus in accordance with the law.
While delivering his ruling, Justice Ssekaana said that the court as a temple of justice should be able to fill the gap in order to avoid any absurdities in the application of the law.
“The duty of the court is to apply the law and discover the intention of the lawmaker. Since the Communications Act provided for confiscation of the said illegally possessed, installed, connected or operated apparatus, it would automatically be implied or read into the act that such confiscated equipment was to be destroyed to deter breaking of the law,” he said.
He added that the provisions of any law made by the legislature are not made for the mere fun of it or for the purpose of meeting the whims and caprices of the interpreter. They must be interpreted and applied to meet the circumstances, issues, conditions and situations for which they are made.
Justice Ssekaana also noted that no reasonable court or tribunal should impute any absurd and unjust consequences to a statute or imply in a statute that will lead to absurdity and injustice.
“This court accordingly grants the applicant an order to destroy communications equipment (Listed in Annexure‘ A’ of the affidavit in support of this application) that were confiscated from known and unknown illegal operators across Uganda between January 2017 and 30th December 2022 by the applicant’s officers in accordance with section 6 of the Uganda Communications Act and other relevant laws. The said destruction should be carried out by Luwero Industries Limited. It is so ordered,” he ruled.
According to UCC act, an illegal operator is an entity or a person who has no Licenses and has no authorizations from UCC for the provision of Communications services in Uganda.
“A person shall not install or operate a television station, radio station, or any related broadcasting apparatus without a license issued by the Commission..,” reads part of Uganda Communications Act, Section 26 (1).
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