In his viewpoint article headlined, “Unconstitutional Declaration of Unconstitutionality” (Volume 14, Number 719, February 9, 2014) posted at addis fortune, Mulugeta Argawi argued that the latest constitutional interpretation of Melaku Fenta’s case is unconstitutional, in and of itself. His argument rests on Article 84 (2) of the Constitution. I believe that it is important to counter his argument by focusing on the laws themselves.
Mulugeta’s criticism rotates around the purely legalistic thinking that a court of law cannot entertain any constitutional matter until such a time that either of the parties raise the issue, which should, in turn, be disputed and contested by the other.
But this is true only in a civil suit. It does not hold water in issues of constitutional interpretation.
Constitutional interpretation is not about litigation or jurisdiction. It is all about maintaining constitutionalism. Of course, there are varying mechanisms of interpreting constitutions, but even then, courts do not follow civil procedures.
Let us take the US constitutional tradition, for example. Even though all courts have parallel power to review and decide on issues of constitutionality, there should not necessarily be two litigants fighting for a case. Many cases have been raised as issues of constitutional rights (and hence constitutional interpretations), which were not exactly cases of one party against the other.