A High Court judge has warned that the dismissed anti-polygamy petition can be reinstated and that those rejoicing should go slow.
Justice David Batema of Soroti High Court explained that since the constitutional petition was not heard on its merit, the petitioners can reinstate it to be heard afresh.
Last Monday, a panel of five Constitutional Court justices dismissed the petition that sought to declare as unconstitutional the situation when a man marries more than one wife.
This was after the petitioners (Mifumi Uganda Ltd) failed to prosecute the case.
“This petition about polygamous marriages was not dismissed on merit. It was dismissed for want of prosecution. I do not know why people rush to celebrate because the case will be brought back anytime,” said Justice Batema.
The judge was speaking in Kampala at the weekend during training of 23 judges on how to align their judgments with the Maputo protocol that advocates for equal rights of women and girls.
He said in case this petition is reinstated, the selection of the justices should be handled carefully to avoid conflict of interest by not having justices who have more than one wife on the panel. “With all due respect, I guess we should mind the selection of the Coram of that case.
If you know you are a justice with two or three wives, you should not sit on that panel because you will be biased. Justice should not only be done but should be seen to be done,” Justice Batema said.
The justices who dismissed the petition included Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, Kenneth Kakuru, Frederick Egonda-Ntende, Christopher Madrama and Ezekiel Muhanguzi.
“We realise that this matter was filed in 2010; any further adjournment would be [an] unnecessary delay. This petition is dismissed under Rule 2 of the Court of Appeal rules,” Justice Dollo ruled. Justice Kakuru advised Mifumi to file a fresh petition and include all the interested parties.