Court dismisses Lukwago case against EC

High Court has dismissed a petition by Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago challenging a decision by the Electoral Commission to ban campaigns in 12 districts.

The Electoral Commission (EC) has justifiable reason to suspend election campaign meetings in 12 districts, court ruled on Monday.

High Court Judge Musa Ssekaana on Monday dismissed an application, with no orders to costs.

Justice Ssekaana reasoned that there was no justification for dispensing with the right to be heard due to the urgency and emergency in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

“In the present case the respondent (EC) was trying to stop the spread of deadly Covid-19 and this is justifiable reason not to accord a hearing since it was acting in an emergency, otherwise the intended purpose would have been defeated if the respondent was to delay the decision. Secondly it was impractical to give a hearing to all affected parties like in this case a right to be heard maybe suspended,” Justice Ssekaana held. 

“The decision of EC is premised on the increased numbers of infections of Covid-19 and this is uncontested as the same could still be taken judicial notice supported by the current worldwide spike of a new wave of corona infection which has seen other countries getting in the second lockdown,” he added. 

The judge further explained that EC is given special powers in case of any emergency under section 50 of the Electoral Commission Act which cannot be said to be unfettered and non-reviewable.  

Court ruled that though the right to be treated fairly and justly is provided under the constitution, it can be restricted in certain instances like emergency situations. 

During hearing EC through its lawyer, Eric Sabiiti told court that the electoral activities during this election period were supposed to be conducted in accordance with guidelines aligned to Ministry of Health Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) aimed at preventing of the spread of the coronavirus. 

Court further heard that candidates were allowed to hold campaign meetings in a regulated manner with limited attendance of a maximum of 70 person to enable the observance of the 2-meters social distancing, however, the number was later revised to a maximum of 200 persons. 

“When the campaigns kicked off, we noted with concern the noncompliance by some candidates with the same guidelines while conducting campaigns. Several engagements were made with some candidates and their agents but there was no improvement,” Sabiiti explained.

Credit: Daily Monitor

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