Uganda: Judiciary Hints At Hearing MPs Poll Petitions Virtually

In order to avert the looming constitutional crisis that may arise over delayed hearing and disposal of 104 parliamentary elections at the High Court, the Judiciary has said they might resort to virtual sessions.

Chief Registrar Sarah Langa Siu in an interview with this pubication at the weekend revealed that their next course of action would be determined by President Museveni's announcement on whether he lifts the Covid-19 lockdown or not.

"Everybody was ready for the hearing of the election petitions in May, but we were disorganised by the lockdown. We are now awaiting on the President's announcement, if he lifts the lockdown, we are all ready to immediately start the hearings. If he doesn't, then we are devising means to go virtual," Ms Langa said.

Equally, the public relations officer of the Judiciary, Mr Jamson Karemani, said there are preparations to equip all the upcountry High Court circuits with technology.

"We are aware that we are running out of time, but we are looking at ways of how to avert it. There is no need to worry. If the physical hearings cannot take place, we have been developing technology in all our High Court circuits to remedy that," Mr Karemani said.

Mid this year, the hearing of the same parliamentary election petitions suffered the first setback due to delayed release of funds.

But in May, the Judiciary secured about Shs1.2b to hear the poll disputes, but the process suffered another blow following the imposing of the inter-district movement ban.

Records show that there are 104 election petitions that have since been filed in courts across the country.

Likewise, there are 49 election petitions filed in local government council pending hearing.

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 the last election disputes should be out of the High Court latest September 19.

The Parliamentary and Elections Act, Section 63 (2), demands that once the hearing of an election petition starts, the judgment should be passed within 30 days. However, the law provides for extension of the hearing period if there are unique circumstances that demand so.

Ms Langa is optimistic that the remaining time is enough to have all the pending election petitions disposed of.

Some of the legislators whose victory has since been challenged include the outgoing Speaker of the 10th Parliament, Mr Rebecca Kadaga (Kamuli District Woman MP), Mr Muhammad Segirinya (Kawempe North), Mr Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central), and Mr Joel Ssenyonyi (Nakawa West), among others.

The rivals allege voter bribery, lack of academic papers, election fraud and violence, non-compliance with electoral laws, among other election malpractices as grounds for annulment of victories.

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