By Peter Sinkamba
WITH 20 DAYS TO GO, THE AMENDED PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION PETITIONS RULES ARE OUT, AND APPEAR FAIR
It is now 20 days to go before the 12 August General Elections.
Meantime, the Statutory Instrument (SI) No. 29 of 2021 is out. It amends by revocation and replacement of Order XIV of the Constitutional Court Rules 2016 is out.
The SI 29 of 2021 prescribes new rules on how the petitions challenging the election of the President-Elect in accordance with Article 101 or 103 of the Constitution shall be filed before the Constitutional Court.
In summary, the rules prescribe the following key aspects:
(i) That the petitioner has 24 hours to promptly personally serve the petition on the respondent. If the petitioner proves difficulty to serve, the court may order substituted service. Effectively, this process may consume maximum of 2 days of the total 14 days provided by the Constitution to hear and determine petitions. This leaves a balance of at least 12 days.
(ii) That the respondent has 4 days to prepare an answer and filing it together with opposing affidavit, skeleton arguments, etc. This leaves the balance of at least 8 days.
(iii) That the respondent must serve the answer and accompanying documents within 24 hours (1 day) of filing. This leaves a balance of at least 7 days.
(iv ) That in case a petitioner wishes to reply to the responder’s answer, this must be done within 24 hours (1 day) of being served with the answer. This leaves a balance of at least 6 days.
(v) That immediately after filing of the respondent’s answer, the Court shall summon parties to a scheduling conference to issue directions to be strictly adhered to. This leaves a balance of at least 5 days.
(vi) That the Court may hear interlocutory applications, and receive written submissions not exceeding 10 pages
(vii) That the Court shall determine interlocutory applications and the petition on affidavit evidence, and oral and written submissions. This ought to be fonr within the balance of 5 days stated in paragraph (v) above
(viii) That at the close of the hearing, the Court shall render its decision, and may reserve its reasons for its decision to a later date not exceeding 60 days
The above revised timeframes appear realistic and fair to parties concerned.
One key positive development that I am impressed with is restricting written submissions to maximum 10 pages per petition. This means regardless the number of lawyers hired by a petitioner or respondent, the written submissions must be to the point; consolidated into one by 10 page document. No irrelevant issues to crowd the justices.
Good luck to the petitioners, the respondent, and the honorable justices.
Lets see what happens in the next 22 days or so, just in case there shall be a petition/petitions against the President-Elect.
God bless Zambia.