Uganda court rules that only parents, children are part of a family

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Kampala, Uganda | URN | The High Court in Kampala has ruled that only parents and children are part of a family and therefore, only them can constitute a case on behalf of a deceased person.

High Court Judge Esta Nambayo in a case where a one Charles Omony had sued the Attorney General seeking damages for the death of his cousin Charles Oyet, said according to her reading of Section 5 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act Cap 79, only parents, children; adopted and illegitimate can file a case on behalf of someone wrongly killed.

Oyet was on November 2, 2014, shot dead by the Assistant Superintendent of Police Ronald Mugabi, who was then the DPC of Kireka Police Station.

According to court papers, Omony brought the suit under the provisions of the Law Reform (Misc. Prov.) Act, Cap 79 against the Attorney General who is the official respondent in civil matters on behalf of government for loss of dependency, loss of expectation of life and bereavement.

He sought orders from Court such that the government pays general damages, punitive and exemplary damages, interest and costs of the suit for the death of Oyet.

When the case came up for hearing, the Attorney General represented by Bichahi Ojambo, the State Attorney, raised preliminary objections saying Omony had no locus standi to institute the suit. He told court that where the case is on behalf of a deceased person, only his children, parents and executor or administrators of his estate can institute a case.

Ojambo also told court that Omony’s plaint was confusing because it refers to him as a cousin and also as an uncle of the deceased. He added that there was no evidence to show that indeed Omony was the executor or the administrator of the estate of Oyet. He therefore prayed that the court dismisses the suit.

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In her ruling on Friday 13, January 2023, Nambayo agreed with the Attorney General’s reasoning. “My understanding… of the law is that the phrase ‘member of the family’ is limited to a father, mother, son, daughter and adopted or illegitimate children. Uncles and/or Cousins are not envisaged members of the family and as such, cannot file a suit for the benefit of the members of the family in that capacity…They may only file a claim if they are Executors or Administrators of the deceased person’s estate,” she said.

Nambayo added that in this case, the Plaintiff being an uncle or cousin to the deceased, without being an Executor or Administrator of the deceased’s estate, was not eligible to file this suit for the benefit of the members of the family. “Therefore, I find merit in the preliminary objection raised by the Learned State Attorney, which I do hereby uphold and dismiss this suit from court,” the judgment reads in part.

However, the judge spared Omony from paying costs by ordering that each party bares its own costs.