Samuel Ampomah, a Ghanaian citizen, has sued the Attorney General, AG, at the Supreme Court pertaining to the restrictions imposed by part 3 of the Marriages Act (CAP 127).
Ampomah, in a report by dennislawnews, told the Justice Baffoe-Bonnie-led Supreme Court, on Tuesday, October 18, 2022, to order the State to remove restrictions to one wife under the marriage Ordinance for him to marry again in fulfilment of his fundamental human rights, having already married under the Act and unwilling to divorce his wife, while desirous of adding another.
He is also seeking a declaration from the court to impose on the State to amend CAP 127 to respect choices and fundamental human rights to marry more in line with customary and Islamic arrangements of Ghana's marital laws.
Marriage under the ordinance is governed by the Marriages Act (Cap 127) and is presently the only strict monogamous marriage arrangement under Ghanaian law, with the possibility of a criminal charge of bigamy against a man who adds another wife under the same law.
When the seven-member panel called the case, a member of the panel queried Samuel Ampomah, who is the plaintiff, to state his case.
In explaining why they were at the Apex court, Ampomah's counsel told the court that his client married under the marriage ordinance, which restricted him to marrying one wife and thus they are praying to the court to make a declaration directed at the Attorney General to change the law, allowing him to marry more women.
He mentioned that his client came to court relative to a supposed breach of his fundamental human right.
After Ampomah's counsel briefed the court, the Attorney General was to file the necessary documents in response to the case.
In a 23-page document signed by Chief State Attorney, Patience Adumua-Lartey, the AG notes that the various forms of marriage as captured by CAP 127 are simply based on the principles of the various religions regarding marriage and not a creation of the lawmakers.
It adds that the plaintiff’s submissions do not raise any real or genuine issues of constitutional interpretation such as would invoke the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
"Per his Statement of Case, invoking the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the plaintiff, Samuel Ampomah states inter alia that the effect of Sections 74(1)(b) of CAP 127 and Sections262, 263, 264, and 265(2) of Act 29 constitute a breach of Articles 17(2) and 21(1) ( c) of the Constitution by prohibiting an identifiable section of Ghanaian men from marrying more than one wife if they wish so.
"Section 74 of CAP 127 is clear, concise, and admits of no ambiguity and that what CAP 127 did was just give legal backing to the areligious principle which has been in existence since time immemorial," dennislawnews.com stated in its report.
The AG submitted further, that considering the reliefs sought in the plaintiff’s action, it is clear that this is not a case that calls for interpretation of the Constitution so as to vest the Supreme Court with the appropriate jurisdiction per Article 130(1) (a).
"Marriage under the ordinance is essentially distinct from Christian marriage as stated on the RGD website; ‘Marriage under Ordinance is the Civil Union available to any Ghanaian to take advantage of, and despite some confusion, it is entirely secular and not religious(Christian) at all.
"Part 3 of the Marriages Act, 1884-1885(CAP 127) deals with Christian and other marriages. Thus the use of ‘other marriages’ suggests that the part is not limited to Christian marriages and thus may be construed to mean Marriage under the ordinance," the report added.
The AG additionally submitted that the plaintiff’s assertion that monogamous nature of Christian Marriages are discriminatory is untenable as it has not been established that Christian marriages are polygamous in nature.
"My Lords, is our humble submission that having taken these characteristics into consideration, CAP 127 is not contradictory to any provision of the Constitution and is neither discriminatory, but rather operates as a means of giving effect to the differences in marriages contracted under the various belief systems existing in Ghana.
"Since CAP 127 gives effect to the different characteristics of the various religions, it cannot possibly be contradictory to Articles 17 and 21 of the 992 Constitution which insists on the freedom of religion.
"It states that the offence of bigamy is a necessary measure to curb unscrupulous behaviour by persons who refuse to adhere to incidents of a marriage contracted under the Ordinance, taking InnocentÑictims along with them," dennislawnews.com quoted further.
The AG ended by stating that "the framers of the Constitution, in their wisdom unambiguously stated in Article 17 that the right to freedom of religion is guaranteed and that there is nothing in the Article that warrants interpretation by the Court and thus the action is borne out of the Plaintiff's misunderstanding of the law and is obviously an abuse of court process and should be dismissed."