The Chief Justice, Alfonse ChigamoyOwiny–Dollo has issued a number of COVID-19 guidelines in relation to among others, election petitions filed in various courts around the country.
According to the guidelines aimed at preventing and mitigating the spread of Coronavirus dated January 29,2021, courts shall where possible designate a temporary separate space at the registry to specifically receive election petitions in order to promote social distancing and observance of Standard Operating Procedures.
“Each judicial officer shall not handle more than two election-related cases at the registry in a day at a specific time, one after another and the number of people in court shall be limited to only parties to the case, their advocates and specific witnesses as and when required,”Dollo says in the circular.
The Chief Justice notes that witnesses are encouraged to make written statements or written statements and affidavits and only come to court in a phased manner for confirmation of their evidence, cross-examination and re-examination.
“In cases where parties exceed 10 in a single election petition, the trial judge or judicial officer shall conduct trial using audio-visual facilities or use open spaces at court premises if possible.”
According to the Chief Justice, journalists intending to cover the presidential election petition shall be accredited by the judiciary’s Chief Registrar.
“Upon accreditation, journalists shall report to the judiciary principal communications officer for guidance on how to cover the proceedings in a manner which is not prejudicial to the trial process,” Dollo says.
The Chief Justice says that journalists involved in covering the proceedings of other election petitions shall liaise with the registrars and Chief Magistrates for the respective courts for guidance.
“All journalists covering court proceedings must observe COVID-19 SOPs as set by the Ministry of Health.”
The guidelines come at a time when National Unity Platform presidential candidate in the just concluded presidential election, Robert Kyagulanyi is set to challenge the outcome of the January 14 polls.
Kyagulanyi’s lawyers wanted to file the petition challenging President Museveni’s re-election on Saturday but because it was not a working day, they were advised to file the same today, Monday.
The lawyers are any time from now expected to do the same.