Magistrates were directed to hear arguments of both parties before deciding whether or not an order in the interim is deserved
The principle judge Yorokamu Bamwine has warned chief magistrates against ex parte interim orders without according both parties a hearing.
"Try as much as possible to avoid ex parte orders. Election issues are highly emotive. Expect a backlash on any decision taken ex parte," he said. An ex parte decision is one decided by a judge without requiring all parties to the case to be present.
Bamwine said that instead of granting such orders, magistrates should explore the possibility of an order mutually agreed upon by the parties to maintain the status quo in the interim.
He directed them to hear arguments of both parties before deciding whether or not an order in the interim is deserved.
He was speaking during a capacity building workshop on the management of election petitions, organized for magistrates. The training took place at the Judicial Studies Institute (JSI), Nakawa on Monday.
The workshop was organized to give magistrates the necessary capacity to curb the backdrop of the previous challenges and complaints arising from the election vote recount process.
It was majorly organized for chief magistrates who were appointed after the 2011 elections and never acquired the skills.
According to Bamwine, the workshop is aimed at equipping the magistrates on how to handle cases on narrowly contested electoral results, how to handle case filing, management and procedures of election petitions.
The magistrates were trained on how to detect and handle quack lawyers who come under the guise of representing the aggrieved parties, yet they do not have the qualifications.
"The mandate of courts in the adjudication of election disputes is very crucial in the process of development of our democracy. Therefore, there is need to ensure that our actions and decisions enhance public trust in the judiciary," he pointed out.
Bamwine noted that many Ugandans are not aware of what it means to have fair elections. Some take it as fun, others as a time to make quick money and others as a matter of life and death.
He advised them to also employ Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) while handling the petitions since it saves costs and time, helps parties involved to heal quickly and gives parties control over the outcomes of the settlement terms.
The Chief Justice Bart Katureebe in his speech warned the magistrates against succumbing to intimidation.
"Stand firm and take charge of your court. Do not allow to be intimidated by parties who have their own selfish interests and do not be swayed by anybody except the need for justice," he said.
Katureebe also warned them against issuing ex parte interim orders on election petitions without giving audience to both parties, saying that it attracts resistance.
"During these times you are expected to be sober and calm. Avoid awarding one party interim orders to avoid causing resistance. Before making any ruling, listen to both parties, get well conversant with the pleadings and study the law," he said.
Justice Esther Kisakye of the Supreme Court asked the magistrates to be fair and balanced in their decisions to avoid public mistrust.