Affidavits are statements of truth that confirm the existence of certain facts in any case. Our jurisdiction relies so much on affidavits that without one, Court will dismiss the case if an affidavit is not filed in a suit that requires one to be present.
A person who swears and affidavit is called a deponent, affiant etc. depending on whatever jurisdiction. Uganda prefers to call them deponents.
Lawyers normally draft affidavits from the testimony/witness/account of the deponents. The latter sign after confirming the contents are true according to how the matter evolved.
Affidavits in Uganda are specifically provided for in the Civil Procedure Rules (C.P.R) S.I 71-1. Under the C.P.R, Order XIX (Rules 1-3) is solely for affidavits. It provides as follows;
Rule 1 provides that Court has ‘power to order any point to be proved by affidavit’. It states;
‘Any court may at any time for sufficient reason order that any particular fact may be proved by affidavit, or that the affidavit of any witness may be read at the hearing, on such conditions as the court thinks reasonable; except that where it appears to the court that either party bona fide desires the production of a witness for cross-examination and that such witness can be produced, an order shall not be made authorising the evidence of that witness to be given by affidavit.’
The order in this rule is a command. If a suit must be supported or verified by an affidavit, then an affidavit it is. If the party fails to file an affidavit, Court may dismiss the suit conditionally (that the affidavit be filed) or entirely.
Rule 2 provides that Court has ‘power to order attendance of deponent for cross-examination’. It states;
- Upon any application evidence may be given by affidavit, but the court may, at the instance of either party, order the attendance for cross-examination of the deponent.
- The attendance shall be in court, unless the deponent is exempted from personal appearance in court or the court otherwise directs.
This provision means that a person that swears an affidavit may be called upon at any time to verify whatever he/she deponed (swore as true) in the affidavit.
This is the cross-examiner’s chance to solicit for whatever information is needed. A cross examiner can question the affiant/witness/deponent to ascertain the veracity of the allegations in the affidavit.
NB: Do not lie in the affidavit. Affidavits are oaths of truth. A lie will infer perjury and perjury is a criminal offence Section 94 of the Penal Code Act, Cap.120) and is penalized by imprisonment of up to seven years (Section 97 of the PCA, Cap.120) Cross examiners thrive on oaths. If you perjure on oath, your case is bad and the opposing counsel’s work is made easier and well paid for.
Rule 3 deals with matters to which affidavits are confined. It provides;
- Affidavits shall be confined to such facts as the deponent is able of his or her own knowledge to prove, except on interlocutory applications, on which statements of his or her belief may be admitted, provided that the grounds thereof are stated.
- The costs of every affidavit which shall unnecessarily set forth matters of hearsay or argumentative matter or copies of or extracts from documents shall, unless the court otherwise directs, be paid by the party filing the affidavit.
Notably, these elements must appear in your affidavit: date, case/matter within which you are swearing this affidavit, full legal name, address (telephone & physical), contact information (usually your counsel’s if you have acquired legal services from one), a chronological account of the events as you remember them, details relevant to the suit, place where you are swearing the affidavit, signature; and any other as your lawyer/counsel may advise.
You, the deponent, are limited to swearing/deponing to only matters that you can prove. Otherwise, without Court’s leave (permission), other matters cannot be allowed. A signed/executed, attested and notarized (if drawn from outside your country’s jurisdiction, if necessary) affidavit is admissible and could be the only set of facts that might help your case.
BY ATUHAIRWE AGRACE
This article appears in our law newsletter Vol 3 Issue 4 of March 23rd, 2018.
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