With the March 26 by-elections on the horizon, roles of the Electoral Court will soon come under the spotlight.
What is an Electoral Court?
· According to Section 161 of the Electoral Act, the Electoral Court is established as a division of the High Court and is also a court of record.
Judges of Electoral Court and its composition
· The Chief Justice, according to Section 162 the Electoral Act shall, after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission and the Judge President of the High Court, appoint at least two judges of the High Court to be Judges of the Electoral Court for such a period as he or she may specify in such appointment.
· The Electoral Court’s jurisdiction, according to the same piece of legislation, may be exercised by a Judge of the Electoral Court sitting alone or with one or more assessors appointed in terms of Section 163.
Roles of the Electoral Court
· Roles of the Electoral Court are outlined in Section 161 (2) and (3) as follows:
“(2) The Electoral Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction—
(a) To hear appeals, applications and petitions in terms of this Act; and
(b) To review any decision of the Commission or any other person made or purporting to have been made under this Act; and shall have power to give such judgments, orders and directions in those matters as might be given by the High Court:
Provided that the Electoral Court shall have no jurisdiction to try any criminal case.
(3) Judgments, orders and directions of the Electoral Court shall be enforceable in the same way as judgments, orders and directions of the High Court.”
Rules of Electoral Court
· The Chief Justice and the Judge President of the High Court, according to Section 165 of the Electoral Act, after consultation with a committee appointed by the Chief Justice, may make rules as to the practice and procedure to be observed in respect of any jurisdiction which under the electoral law is exercisable or to be exercised by the Electoral Court.
· Such rules may make provision for the following:
(a) The practice and procedure to be observed in the hearing of election petitions;
(b) Service of an election petition on the respondent;
(c) Priority of set down for the hearing of an election petition.