Pastor Teddy Naluswa, the senior pastor at the World of Salvation Ministries International is in tears after the Entebbe Chief Magistrates’ Court stayed the proceedings of the bigamy charges against Pastor Aloysious Bujjingo of the House of Prayer Ministries International and Suzan Makula Nantaba.
On Friday, Stella Paculal Okwang, the presiding Magistrate referred the matter to the Constitutional Court for legal interpretation.
She agreed with Bujjingo’s lawyers led by Constitutional law giant Ronald Ruhinda that when questions of Constitutional interpretation are raised on a mater, it should be halted and referred to the Constitutional Court which has the obligation to interpret the Constitution.
“Having studied all submissions from both sides backed by Article 237 and 137(1) of the Constitution, I made a conclusion to stay the trial of the accused person waiting for the decision of the Court of Appeal sitting as the Constitution Court,” Okwang noted.
She further stated that there is a question which involves a substantial question of law which must be answered by the Constitutional Court’s decision in accordance with clause of article 137 of the Constitution.
Last year, Naluswa through the Director Public Prosecution (DPP) charged Bujjingo with the offences of contracting marriage by customary law when they are already married under marriage Act, Cap 251, contrary to Section 50.
He was also charged them with counts of Bigamy contrary to Section 153 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 120. Makula was also charged with the offence of entering a Marriage with a person previously married Contrary to Section 42 of the Marriage Act, Cap 251.
However, the accused’s lawyers insisted that the charges violate their clients’ Constitutional rights, that is why the Constitutional Court should first interpret the legality of the charges before the magistrate court announces itself on the matter.
They told the magistrate’s Court that Section 153 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 120, Section 41, 42 and 50 of the Marriage Act Cap 251 are not generally and legally applicable as they prohibit other marriage arrangements contracted by a person who already contracted a marriage under a marriage Act, yet it doesn’t prohibit other subsequent marriages contracted by persons who already contracted marriage under the Mohamaddian Law and the Customary marriages.
They argued that this makes it discriminatory.
The Lawyers further argued that the said laws violate their client’s inherent right to choose whom to marry which is generalized to give an individual an automous right to enter a bigamous marriage and as such, the criminalization and non-recognition of the bigamous marriage interferes with the free exercise of choice of a marriage partner and the right to marry and start a family.
“Not granting people in bigamous marriages the same benefits as those in non-bigamous marriages violates the Equal protection tenet,” the lawyers stated.
They noted that the said Laws are discriminatory because they are not criminally actionable amongst the Hindus, Muslims and those that contract customary marriages.
Lawyers asserted that the challenged law criminalizing consensual marriage among adults is in contravention with freedom from discrimination and right to dignity guaranteed.
Lawyers further argued that they want the constitutional court to determine whether the acts and ceremony held on 7th December, 2021, at Kawuku, Katabi Town Council, Wakiso District which the prosecutors based on to charge their clients are constitutionally illegal.
They also want the constitution court to determine whether the delayed disposal of the divorce case before the high court family division between Bujjingo and Naluswa is constitutional and does not violate their client’s rights.
Naluswa has been fighting tooth and nail to see that the bigamy case is determined in her favour before the divorce case kicks off in the High Court family Division.
She allegedly wanted to use the Bigamy judgement as evidence against Bujjingo in the Family Court.
But now that the case has been referred to the constitutional court for interpretation, it means the divorce case will be decided before the constitutional court even sits to interpret the bigamy case.
By Sengooba Alirabaki