The Chief Justice, Alfonse Owiny-Dollo has issued new guidelines to be followed while handling parliamentary election petitions.
In a circular released on Tuesday, Dollo said the hearing of the poll petitions will commence on August 16 but under strict Covid guidelines.
“All courts shall, where possible establish a temporary separate space at the court where an excess person or those whose cases were fixed for a later time may be seated in order to promote social distancing and observance of Covid SOPs,”Dollo said in the circular.
According to the Chief Justice, the sitting arrangement in courtrooms will be demarcated following social distancing rules.
“Only parties to the case, their advocates and specifically summoned witnesses will attend court. Cases will be cause-listed for specific times, one after the other, and a witness waiting area should be arranged.”
The guidelines also say that in case parties and advocates are more than 10 in a single petition, the trial judge shall conduct the trial using audio-visual facilities or use open spaces at court where possible.
According to the Chief Justice, interest media personnel will be accredited before being allowed to cover the proceedings in the election petitions.
“All journalists attending court must comply with the SOPs on mitigation of the spread of Covid-19 as set by the Ministry of Health,”Dollo said.
The Judiciary spokesperson, Jameson Karemani Karemera recently said they had learnt lessons from previous elections adding that all the 43 Chief Magistrates, 57 High Court Judges, 16 from the Court of Appeal and 11 from the Supreme Court that the country currently has will be available to expeditiously handle the election petitions arising out of the polls.
“Yes it will have an effect and delays on other cases but we have to dispose of these petitions which have timelines,” Karemani said.
There are 109 parliamentary election petitions filed by different candidates aggrieved with the outcome of the January 14 results.
According to section 63 of the Parliamentary Elections Act, an election petition should be heard and determined within six months from the date of filing whereas the judgment should be done within 30 days after hearing.