Judiciary issues guidelines on hearing poll petitions

A man cast his vote at a polling station in Kampala on January 14, 2021. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Only parties to the case (s), their advocates and specifically summoned witnesses shall attend court. 

The Judiciary has issued seven guidelines to be followed by parties during the hearing of delayed parliamentary and local council election petitions.

According to the circular by Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo released on Tuesday evening, the hearing of 104 delayed parliamentary poll petitions will start on August 16.

Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo has tasked Principal Judge, Dr Flavian Zeija, to issue the hearing schedules.
However, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, all courts are required to demarcate sitting positions in accordance with social distancing rules.

“Only parties to the case (s), their advocates and specifically summoned witnesses shall attend court,” the Chief Justice’s circular reads in part.

The guidelines require that instances where the  parties and their lawyers exceed 10 in number, the trial judge will conduct the hearings using audio-visual facilities or  open spaces at the court premises.

Meanwhile, media that is interested in covering the hearings has been advised to seek accreditation from the registrar of the respective courts.

This, the Judiciary said,  is to ensure that the coverage is done in an orderly manner.

The hearing of the 104 parliamentary election petitions had been scheduled for early this year but suffered a setback following delayed release of funds to facilitate judges.

In May, the Judiciary secured the funds but the process was affected by the ban on inter district travel and the 42-day nationwide lockdown.

The release of the guidelines comes at a time when the Judiciary is only left with close to two months to hear and determine the poll petitions.

The constitutional six months for hearing and determining   an election petition by the High Court are fast running out  with the last petition expected to be out of the court by end of September.

The Chief Justice said with the increment of  court operations from 10 per cent to 20 per cent, courts should resume hearing of both civil and criminal cases but under strict observance of Covid-19 Standard Operating Procedures.

Some of the guidelines
 Principal Judge to issue hearing schedules commencing on August 16. 
All courts shall, where possible, establish a temporary separate space where excess persons or those whose cases were fixed at a later time, may be seated in order to promote social distancing.


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