The Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo has suspended hearing of all court cases including election petitions for 42 days.
According to the circular issued on Monday, Owiny-Dollo says that the suspension is being done in line with the directives issued by President Yoweri Museveni on June 6th 2021 for prevention and mitigation of the spread of COVID-19.
Museveni on Sunday issued a number of guidelines including closure of education and religious facilities, banning cross border district movements, meetings of more than 20 people and said that only the Cabinet, Parliament and the Judiciary shall not be affected.
However, in his circular, the Chief Justice has suspended all court hearings, execution proceedings and processes and noted that for the cases at the stage of submissions, the respective courts may advise the parties to file written submissions through email addresses provided by the court.
“Judicial Officers handling urgent business must operate in court halls or open space at the courts. Whenever practicable virtual hearing of cases should be adhered to including insisting on written submissions use of email, online delivery of judgements and audio visual hearings and other modes of contactless communication, ” reads the circular in part.
According to the circular, the Judiciary will also scale down operations to 30 percent physical presence and ensure that only critical staff remain to attend to the court/office business on a daily basis and all registries must remain open to allow filing of cases.
“The heads of courts and departments should immediately workout a duty Rota by which staff shall work in rotation until further directions are issued. For the duty Rota must include a Judicial Officer and very essential support staff” it adds.
The circular adds that only urgent matters will be heard during the 42 days in strict observation of the standard operating procedures and it also encourages other Judicial staff to work from home.
However, when contacted one of the lawyers for a comment on suspension of hearing of Election Petitions, Caleb Alaka said that it is not only unfair but the Judiciary is perpetuating fraud.
Alaka who represents a number of petitioners in court and respondents such as Rebecca Kadaga, the former Speaker of Parliament said that people like Kawempe North MP Muhammad Ssegirinya whose victory is being challenged by his client Sulaiman Kidandala is going to continue enjoying privileges in Parliament when he doesn’t have the necessary academic qualifications to be there.
The law mandates the Judiciary to hear Electoral Petitions within 60 days.
But the Judiciary Public Relations Officer Jamson Karemani says that they are still within the time because the counting starts after a hearing date has been given.
In this case, the Judiciary had not yet fixed any hearing dates despite 104 parliamentary election petitions and 49 local government petitions that were filed after the January/February 2021 general elections. URN