JOURNAL OF UWC FACULTY OF LAW | ISSN 2077-4907 | Short URL www.ldd.org.za

The political question doctrine in Uganda: A reassessment in the wake of CEHURD, pg 264

Volume: Volume 18 - 2014

Article type: Refereed article

Author/s: Dennison, Brian D

The political question doctrine obliges courts to set aside certain government actions and decisions from judicial review.  The doctrine emerged in the United States in the early 19th Century.  It first appeared in Ugandan jurisprudence in Ex parte Matovu (1966).  After Matovu, the doctrine kept a relatively low profile in Uganda.  However, the doctrine re-emerged dramatically in the case of Centre of Health Human Rights & Development (CEHURD) and Others v. Attorney General. In CEHURD, the Constitutional Court of Uganda held that the political question doctrine prevented the court from reviewing government policy concerning the provision of maternal health care. Critics of the CEHURD judgment question the legitimacy of the political question doctrine and contend that the doctrine should not apply to matters involving human rights. Criticisms continue as the matter sits on appeal before the Supreme Court of Uganda. Notwithstanding the protestations, the political question doctrine has its rightful use and place in Uganda.  The doctrine springs from a necessary limitation on judicial power and the need to honour purposeful allocations of power among the other branches of government. Thus, the doctrine has a fundamental role to play in achieving separation of powers and allocating of government responsibilities. Despite its utility, the political question doctrine should not be used as an excuse for the judiciary to abscond from core responsibilities or to avoid controversy.  This is especially true in nations where courts are historically susceptible to political pressure.

About the author/s

D Brian Dennison

Lecturer, Uganda Christian University Faculty of Law and PhD Candidate, University of Cape Town.

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