By Dickson Jere
The Chief Justice of Zambia has promulgated new rules for the Constitutional Court to govern presidential election petition in an attempt to manage the “short” 14-day period in which to hear and determine such a case ahead of the August 2021 General Elections.
Chief Justice Irene Mambilima, in the new Constitutional Court (Amendment) Rules, has ordered that presidential election petition should be served on the respondent within 24 hours after being filed. This is certainly aimed at “case management” of the 14 days following the 2016 fiasco where the Petitioners had difficulties even to serve the documents on time.
“A petition shall be served on the respondent within twenty-four hours of filing the petition,” reads the Constitutional Court (Amendment) Rules of 2021 issued under Statutory Instrument No. 29 of 2021.
If you fail to serve within 24 hours, you go back to court to seek permission to serve the petition via substituted service which can be by way of newspaper advertisement.
The Respondents have been given four (4) days in which to respond by way of Answer and the same should be served on the Petitioners within 24 hours after filing it in the Registry.
“The Petitioners May reply to the respondent’s answer within 24 hours of being served with the answer,” the New Rules further reads.
The new Rules further require that the Court should give its decision at the end of the 14 days but may reserve the reasons for later date but that should not exceed 60 days from the day of the last hearing. This, again, is aimed at remedying the situation of 2016 when the Concourt time elapsed after 14 days before it could hear and determine the merits of the presidential petition.
“The Court, shall at the close of a hearing, give its decision and may reserve its reasons for its decision on a later date,” the rules reads on part.
When all is said and done, 14 days still remain tight for petitioners to gather evidence across the country and adduce it in court through witnesses while the Respondent will require almost same time to present its side of the story. There was an attempt to expand this period in Bill 10 but that is water under the bridge. Nevertheless, the new rules are welcome to help manage the presidential petitions.