Written by Habtamu Bulti*LL.B (HU), LL.M (ECU), served as a judge in Oromia, & serving as a Legal Researcher at OJSPTLRI ; E-mail:
A person who owns a vehicle apprehended transporting illegal coffee is punished by a fine of Birr 50,000 and an imprisonment of three to five years under Article 15(6) of the Federal Coffee Quality Control and Marketing Proclamation. The wording of the provision and different interpretation rules indicate that the crime is a strict or/and a vicarious criminal liability offence that punishes a person without the need for proving his guilty mind or guilty act. In practice, however, it is interpreted and applied inconsistently. Where some courts apply it as the direct meaning of the provision suggests, other courts penalize an owner of a vehicle apprehended transporting illegal coffee only where he carries out the illegal act personally. Furthermore, Article 23(6) of the Oromia Coffee Quality Control and Marketing Proclamation, which is intended to facilitate the implementation of the previous provision, conveys indefinite meanings as to the criminal responsibility of a person who owns a vehicle apprehended transporting illegal coffee. Hence, it further complicates the problem. Moreover, the provisions are encroaching on the fundamental human rights and the uniform application of the basic criminal principles in the country. In view of that, this article recommends that the Federal Legislature and Caffee Oromia should reconsider the criminal responsibility of a person who owns a vehicle apprehended transporting illegal coffee and reset the liability that goes with the spirit of the FDRE Constitution and the Criminal Code.
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