Courts around the country have embarked on online hearings following guidelines issued by the Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe, on April 29 as one of the measures to help the courts function better during the ongoing national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
According to the judiciary spokesperson, Jamson Karemani, the guidelines are entailed under Office Instruction Number 2 of 2020 that will ensure timely delivery of judgments and rulings, hearing of bail applications, case mentions and issuance of orders.
“They also entail how parties relevant to the cases are invited and how they will attend online hearings. Invitations will be done through email, Whatsapp or through the Judiciary’s Online Hearing Tool. This means that all accused persons who had previously failed to apply for bail due to measures put in place by Uganda Prisons Services can now apply for bail online,”Karemani said.
The judiciary spokesperson said that the new guidelines are in line with the laws of the land including the Constitution, the Data Protection and Privacy Act of 2019, the Computer Misuse Act of 2011, the Electronic Transactions Act of 2011 and the Electronic Signatures Act of 2011, as well as court rules and directions such as the Judicature (Video-Audio Link) Rules and the Constitution (Integration of ICT into Adjudication Processes for Courts of Judicature) Practice Directions of 2019.
“The hosts for the court sessions will be Judiciary’s ICT department that will coordinate with each court to identify parties, register their accounts, invite them and guide them on how to effectively participate in the proceedings. The hearings will be scheduled and as such all participants will be expected to keep time. The participants for online hearings will include; the Judicial Officer handling the case, clerks assigned to the case, advocates of the parties, the parties to a case, the media and any other interested party.”
According to the statement, the record of proceedings for the online hearings will be generated by the Judiciary’s ICT department from the recording done during the hearing whereas signed copies of judgments and rulings will then be electronically sent to parties as one of the efforts to promote social distancing during the pandemic
“The electronic management of cases will be carried forward in line with efforts to automate court processes. We, therefore appeal to all court users and the public at large to embrace these online processes to ensure timely and efficient delivery of justice. We also reiterate that all courts will continue to operate but on a skeletal basis,” the judiciary spokesperson noted.
The development comes barely two weeks after court declined to hear the bail application for wealthy businessman, Abid Alam via zoom technology.
Buganda Road grade one magistrate, Ketty Joan Acaa a week ago said he could not entertain the bail application for Abid who is currently remanded at Kitalya Maximum prison in Mityana district saying there is no law enabling her to use zoom technology.
The latest development of hearing cases online will greatly help reduce on cases backlog but also help people access justice, an area that has been greatly affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.