Criminal Proceedings Against Pastor Bugingo Halted

An application filed by Bugingo and Makula's lawyers Ronald Rulinda and Isaac Keith Ssenyange asked the court to refer the matter to the Constitutional Court for interpretation.
02 Jul 2022 08:36

Audio 5

The Entebbe Grade One Magistrate Stella Paculal Okwong on Friday halted criminal proceedings against Pastor Aloysius Bugingo and Suzan Nantaba Makula. 

This is after Okwong allowed an application filed by Bugingo and Makula's lawyers Ronald Rulinda and Isaac Keith Ssenyange asking the court to refer the matter to the Constitutional Court for interpretation.

The lawyers raised 21 issues on whether or not certain provisions of the Marriage Act, 1904 and Penal Code Act, 1950 are not in breach of provisions of the 1995 Uganda Constitution.

Bugingo, the lead pastor at House of Prayer Ministries, is accused of committing bigamy and contracting marriage with Nantaba, breaching sections of the Marriage Act and the Penal Code Act, since he is still legally married to Teddy Naluswa Bugingo.

The state says Bugingo and Naluswa got married on December 20, 2003. But before the dissolution of their marriage, Bugingo married Makula under customary law on December 7, 2021, in Kawuku, Katabi town council in Wakiso district.

Okwong allowed the application because the proposed questions require interpretation by the Constitutional Court.

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Earlier on, Rulinda highlighted the 21 issues which question the constitutionality of mainly Section 153 of the Penal Code Act, Sections 41, 42, and 50 of the Marriage Act, 1904 which prohibit bigamy, an unmarried person marrying a person previously married and contracting customary marriage when already married.

He argued that these provisions in the Penal Code Act and Marriage Act are discriminative, unconstitutional, null and void, and contrary to several Articles of the Uganda Constitution namely Articles 2, 31, and 32.

Rulinda added that the provisions under which Bugingo and Makula are charged do not prohibit other subsequent marriages contracted by persons who already contracted marriages under the Mohamaddian Law and the Customary Marriages (Registration) Act.

 He wants the Constitutional Court to determine whether or not the provisions of the Penal Code and Marriage Act do not for instance contravene Makula and Bugingo's constitutional rights to equality and fair treatment in not granting people in bigamous marriages the same benefits as those in non-bigamous marriages, their right of choice of a marriage partner and the right to found a family.

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Rulinda also argued that sections of the Penal Code and Marriage Act encourage homophobia and stigmatization, criminalize consensual marriage between adults of sound mind, and create offenses that are not criminally actionable amongst the Hindus, and Muslims, and those that contract customary marriages."

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State Attorney Timothy Amerit however asked the court to dismiss the application, saying it is a tactic to delay criminal proceedings against Bugingo and Makula.

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Last week, Rulinda made the application, saying that the matter should be referred to the Constitutional Court for interpretation as provided for in the Judicature Rules and Constitutional Court Rules.