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JUDGEMENT: Supreme Court orders the Constitutional Court to hear Maternal Health Cases

The judgment struck down a 2012 ruling by the Constitutional Court that it had no mandate to hear a case regarding the alleged violation of health rights and the rights of women.

The case had been filed by families of two pregnant women who died in childbirth and the Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) against the Attorney General in 2011 (Constitutional Petition No. 16 of 2011), arguing that non-provision of maternal health services in Uganda violated the Constitution.

The Attorney General argued on preliminary objection that issues relating to health rights were “political questions”—matter that the Judiciary had no authority to address. Constitutional Court agreed with the State’s objection and dismissed the case.

The Supreme Court’s ruling struck down the Constitutional Court’s judgment, and means the original case can now be heard on its merits.

“With great respect to the Constitutional Court, I think they misunderstood what was required of the court. I do not think the court was required to determine, formulate or implement the health policies of government. In my view, the court is required to determine whether the government has provided or taken all practical measures to ensure the basic medical services to the population. In this case it is maternal services in issue” Bart M Katureebe, Chief Justice




On 22nd December 2011, the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development         (CEHURD) together with one of the survivors of mental disability dragged the Ugandan government to court over referring to persons with mental disabilities as idiots and imbeciles which according to them is derogatory inhuman and degrading.


The two petitioners in Constitutional Petition No. 64 are challenging the constitutionality of the Trial on indictments Act and penal code Act as they violate the rights of persons with mental disabilities. They argue that the two legislations are archaic and do not conform with the1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to which Uganda is a signatory.


“The constitution is the supreme law of the land and any law that is inconsistent with it is null and void to the extent of its inconsistency. Persons with mental disabilities equally have and should enjoy the same rights contained in the constitution; there is no reason as to why they should be discriminated by the two legislations which are colonial and inconsistent with the needs and requirements of Ugandan and international law” Says Mr. Mulumba Moses the Executive Director for CEHURD.


In addition to challenging the archaic colonial laws, the petitioners are also aggrieved with the laws that adjudge persons with mental disabilities who are not proven guilty as criminals by referring to them as criminal lunatics. They contend that the practice of detaining them in prisons for years awaiting a minister’s order on whether they are able or unable to stand trial violates their rights guaranteed under the constitution


Mr. Yiga Daniel one of the petitioners says “mental illness is not a permanent medical condition and by referring to persons with mental illness as idiots and imbeciles and as criminal lunatics before they are adjudged so, the law itself is being abusive.”


CEHURD is a not for profit company limited by guarantee registered in 2009 working towards an effective, equitable, people centered public health system that ensures the full realization of the right to health and promotes respect for human rights.