Uganda: Court issues ‘landmark’ ruling, bans national exams on Muslim holidays
Uganda’s Constitutional Court has issued a landmark ruling, ordering the government to refrain from holding national exams on gazetted Muslim holidays such as Idd-ul-Fitr and Idd al-Adhuha.
Five justices of the court ruled unanimously on Tuesday that the government, through the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb), has been infringing on Muslim students’ rights.
“I would issue a permanent injunction to order the first respondent (Uneb) to refrain from conducting examinations on any day coinciding with any of the relevant Muslim religious holidays to which Idd-ul-Fitr and Idd al-Adhuha,” ruled Justice Elizabeth Musoke, who wrote the lead judgment.
“The practice of the first respondent…is inconsistent with the right to freedom of religion of Muslim students, in particular the right to manifest their practice of religion through observance of religious holidays guaranteed under the Constitution,” he added.
Exams should be postponed in the future if they fall on those days, according to Justice Musoke.
One of the other four justices, Justice Muzamiru Kibeedi, said the two religious days are declared as public holidays in the Public Holidays Act and that there is no legal reason for not honoring them. Fredrick Egonda Ntende, Irene Mulyagonja, and Cheborion Barishaki were the other justices.
According to Daily Monitor, Sadiki Kakaire and Suleiman Isotah Magumba, two Muslim students, sued Uneb and its then-chairperson, Mr Fagil Mandy, for pressuring Muslim students to take exams on Idd-ul-Fitr and Idd al-Adhuha. They stated that this was in violation of many constitutional provisions, including 7, 20, 21 (1), (2), (3), 24, 29, 37, 43, and 44.
The court’s decision came just one day before the Muslim world celebrated Idd-ul-Fitr this year.
The justices granted the duo petitioners costs of the petition but refused to grant them damages since they did not provide proof that they suffered any unique inconvenience as a result of Uneb’s behavior.
In 2013, Mr Mandy was accused of announcing that national exams will be held on Idd al-Adhuha. The ruling comes just in time for the Muslim community in Uganda to celebrate Idd-ul-Fitr.