Africa-Press – Uganda. The lockdown imposed on inter-district travels has greatly affected the start of the long-awaited hearing of parliamentary and local government council election petitions, the Principal Judge, Dr Flavian Nzeija, has said.
The administrative head of the High Court explained that since majority of the lawyers are concentrated in Kampala, with now travel restrictions imposed by President Museveni, it will be hard for them to travel upcountry to represent MPs involved in election disputes.
“With the lockdown, we really have to first discuss how to proceed. This is because most of the MPs battling election petitions have their lawyers based in Kampala, who will be facing the challenge of travelling,” Dr Zeija said yesterday.
“We are going to hold a top management meeting on the way forward,” he added.On Sunday evening, President Museveni in his televised address to the nation, announced 33 new measures aimed at curbing on the rising infections of Covid-19.
Among the new measures was banning movement between districts for the next 42 days.The partial lockdown by the President comes at the time when the Judiciary had just received funds to facilitate the hearing of parliamentary and local government council elections that had been delayed for over a month.
With this new development, it means the MPs who didn’t genuinely make it to the August House will stay there longer since the hearing of the petitions will now be delayed.Judiciary records show there are 104 election petitions that have since been filed in courts across the country challenging the election of MPs.
Likewise, there are 49 election petitions filed in the category of local government council pending hearing by the JudiciaryOne of the renowned lawyers, who usually represents MPs in election disputes, Mr Caleb Alaka, said the partial lockdown has affected him since he had been hired to represent MPs in four districts.
“It has totally affected us because we are already late to carry out the scheduling conference. I have election petitions in the districts of Soroti, Fort portal, Masaka and Jinja,” Mr Alaka said.
“So just imagine how I will work. You cannot say the Judiciary should continue working and yet you cannot allow the movement of the lawyers who facilitate the same judicial process,” he added.Likewise, Mr Jude Byamukama said he has seven election petitions outside Kampala and that the partial lockdown has curtailed his work.
“It is creating a lot of uncertainty to us the legal fraternity, how shall we meet witnesses to get affidavit evidence since they are scattered all over. There hasn’t been any declaration that lawyers are essential workers….” he said.Mr Byamukama said he has election petition in the districts of Mbale (02), Jinja (01), Soroti (01), Mbarara (01) and Kabale (02).
Section 63 (3) of the Parliamentary Elections Act demands that an election petition should be heard and determined within six months from the date of filing.The last parliamentary election petition was filed on March 19. This means that the last election dispute should be out of the High Court latest September 19.