By Muhimbise George.
Hon Justice, permit me to write to you through this platform, reason being that as a result of limited movements Iam unable to deliver it to your office.
I write to you in defense of the doctrine of separation of powers where the arm of government you head is expected to be independent from the other two arms of government especially the executive.
Whereas this independence is recorded in the constitution, it ought to be demonstrated and moreso in developing countries like Uganda, it should be fought for and as a chief justice, you don’t just carry the title and the wigs on the head but also have a mandate to fight for this doctrine of separation of powers!
I also write to you aware that your face has been riddled by allegations of being partisan, biased and a conduit for the appointing authority. The recent Presidential petition and the subsequent controversy of Justice Kisakye left a rotten egg on your face. I therefore believe that you have a duty to use this opportunity to clean your face or else to prove your doubters right, that is if you care about your integrity any way!
Now, following the country wide lockdown that left only key departments of government in operation but still subject to the SOPs, the Courts of law were to remain operational subject to SOPs as well.
In your revised contingency measures to prevent spread of COVID 19 dated 21st June, 2021 you noted under directive 5 that all Court hearings and appearances would remain suspended, with the exception of only urgent matters
To our dismay, you suspended the hearing of all Election Petitions until further directives were given. This means in your wisdom you didn’t take election petitions to be urgent and important!
I doubt that a whole Chief Justice would consider election petitions less urgent, but my flies in the corridors of power indicate that this order was from influence peddling from the executive. But can there be services without credible leadership? Are you using Covid to abuse the law and do impunity or are you ready to stand tall in defense of the law that you swore to protect?
My Lord allow me to remind you that
Section 63(2) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005 as amended provides for the expeditious nature and manner in which election petitions should be heard and determined suspending all other matters pending before the High Court.
My Lord also allow me to remind you that section 63 (9) further stipulates the time period of six months as the timeline within which election petitions are to be handled by the High Court until final dispensation.
My Lord, the law makes election matters of urgency given that the Courts have the duty to determine the illegalities raised and put them to an end in honor of the people’s mandate and exercise of the civic duty of the right to vote for leaders of their choice.
I believe and in reference to the laws above that Election Petitions are Urgent matters and should not be totally suspended and propose to you how election petition hearings can be conducted currently while preventing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
It’s embarrassing that in this era of technology, court can fail to conduct business simply because of Lockdown.
The Judicature (Visual- Audio Link) Rules, 2016 and the Guidelines for On-line Hearings in the Judiciary of Uganda created the mechanisms under which a court can hear a case by visual-audio link to allow business continuity in the Uganda Judiciary during and after the COVID-19 Lock down.
Rule 5 of Judicature (Visual- Audio Link) Rules (Supra) provides for circumstances under which visual-audio link evidence and hearings can be conducted to prevent spread of COVID-19.
The Judicature (Visual- Audio Link) Rules, 2016 (Supra) provide for all the procedure on how trails of such a nature as Election Petitions can be conducted and especially the issue of adducing evidence and the demeanor of witness which is a key element in the hearings of such nature.
My Lord, it is thus my submission that there is need for the Judiciary to resuscitate the hearing and prosecution of Election Petitions through the use of technology and adherence to the standard operating procedures.
There are no risks in using this method since the Judicial Officer is simply connected via a visual audio link to the advocates of all parties and their witnesses in another location for the entire trial.
There is limited physical contact in the entire exercise but moreso it saves resources and time that both parties would spend travelling to court!
My lordship as I wind up wish to remind you that it’s almost six months since most petitions were filed and to our dismay none of them has been disposed off, don’t you feel embarrassed to superitend such a body?
Hon Justice Owiny Dolo allow me to quote Plato who said “the worst form of injustice is pretended justice”! To the Uganda law society, the lawyers, the principal judge allow me to quote the words of Martin Luther King Jr who said, ” we shall not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”
Again to the Chief Justice, the ball is in your hands to be a chief justice who dispenses justice or a Chief Justice whose bank of Justice is bankrupt!
The author is a member of the Alliance for National Transformation