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Petition to permit polygamy: Man who wanted Supreme Court to allow him to marry more discontinues case

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson
Petition to permit polygamy: Plaintiff discontinues case
Petition to permit polygamy: Plaintiff discontinues case

A farmer, Samuel Ampomah, who filed a suit seeking the Supreme Court to allow men to marry more than one wife under the marriage ordinance law, has discontinued the case.

Mr Ampomah filed the notice of discontinuance on October 22 this year.

The apex court is expected to sit soon and decide whether or not to allow the plaintiff to discontinue the suit.

Mr Ampomah went to the Supreme Court in November last year with a case that it was unconstitutional for the Marriages Act, 1884 (CAP 127), and the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) to forbid a man from marrying more than one wife under the ordinance and also make it a crime.

According to him, CAP 127 and Act 29 violated Articles 17 (2) and 21(1) of the 1992 Constitution, which respectively prohibits discrimination and guarantees the right to practice any religion without restriction.

Plaintiff’s reliefs


Mr Ampomah was seeking a declaration that on a true and proper interpretation of Articles 17(2) and 21(1) (c) of the 1992 Constitution and the spirit of the Constitution, Section 74 (1) of CAP 127 which forbids a man from marrying more than one wife under the ordinance was unconstitutional, and, therefore, null and void.

Again, he wanted the apex court to declare as unconstitutional Sections 262, 263, 264 and 265(2) of Act 29 which make it an offence for a man to marry again under the ordinance while he is already married.

Legal arguments

Under CAP 127, there are three types of marriages — customary, Islamic and ordinance.

The first two — customary and Islamic — allow a man to marry more than one wife, while the ordinance prohibits a man from marrying more than one wife.

Mr Ampomah argued that the marriage under the ordinance applied solely to Christian marriage, but that there was no evidence that monogamous marriage was part of Christianity.

Rather, he argued that monogamous marriage was a European culture which had been made to look like a religious or Christian culture.

It was, therefore, his case that making it compulsory for Christians to marry only one was an imposition which discriminates against people in Ghana who identified as Christians.

“Plaintiff maintains that in the Christian manual of life known as the Bible, there is no prohibition against Christian men from marrying more than one wife anyway, making the prohibition in Sections 74(1) (b) of CAP 127, and Sections 262, 263 and 265 (2) an undue and improper imposition on the lives of Christians,” he argued.

A-G’s defence

In its defence, the Attorney-General (A-G) argued that the plaintiff had not made any case to be granted the reliefs that he sought.

According to the A-G, the three different types of marriages captured under CAP 127 were based on the various religious practices in the country.

“It is trite that customary and Mohammedan marriages are potentially polygamous, while the Bible which guides Christianity upholds monogamy. This principle is established throughout the Bible and is practiced by Christians the world over,” the A-G argued.

The A-G further argued that the plaintiff had not properly invoked the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution.

It was the case of the A-G that the fact that the plaintiff sought interpretation did not mean the law he complained about met the interpretation criteria set out by case law.

The A-G contended that Section 74 (1) (b) of CAP 127 was clear, concise and admitted no ambiguity, and that there was no need for interpretation or enforcement by the court.

Read also : Allow me to marry more women – Ampomah tells Supreme Court