Social media tax case stalls as govt fails to file defence


The petitioners’ lawyers opposed the deferment of the case, asking court to continue with conferencing as government prepares its response


A case challenging the imposition of sh200 daily tax for accessing social media has stalled due to government’s delay to file its response to the suit.

The case which was coming up for conferencing on Monday before the Constitutional Court was differed after government’s legal representative admitted that they have not yet filed a response to the suit.

“We received information regarding the matter from Parliament on Friday [August 31] and we have not had time to peruse through. We need more time to be able to organise the information and bring it to court for proper scheduling,” said Goretti Arinaitwe, a senior state attorney.

In their submission, the petitioners’ lawyers opposed the deferment of the case, asking court to continue with conferencing as government is preparing its response.

“We are cognizant of article 29 which calls for expeditious handling of such matters. It is possible for the respondent to file all documents after the conferencing. For now, let us use the material time available to frame the issues,” said Eron Kiza, one of the petitioners’ lawyers.

However, in her ruling, Agnes Nkonge, the court’s deputy registrar, granted the prayers of the state attorney, stating that it is in the interest of justice.

She adjourned the case to September 13, to give time to the state to file its defence.  

The suit was filed on July 6 at the Constitutional Court, by a group of young advocates under the Cyber Law Initiative and four other individuals including Daniel Bill Opio, Moses Baguma, Emmanuel Okiror, Silver Kayondo and Raymond Mujuni.

The group challenge several sections of the Excise Duty (Amendment) Act which provide for Over the Top (OTT) services on mobile phone usage.  They argued the tax is consistent with several provisions of the Constitution.

They said that the tax prevents access to internet and social media based human rights and freedom of expression, civic and public participation, political mobilization, peaceful assembly that are provided in the Constitution.      

They said sections of the Act contravene and are inconsistent with national interest and common good of online promotion of accountability in the running of public affairs under the Constitution and national objectives and directive principles of state policy.

They faulted government and UCC for neglecting to enact free internet access, net neutrality and open internet compliant regulations. They say unless restrained, URA will continue collecting taxes on social media.

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