Friday, September 7, 2012

CONTROVERSY DEEPNS - Over new constituencies

Saturday, September 1, 2012 (Lead story) THE controversy surrounding the creation of 45 new constituencies has assumed another dimension. One of the opponents to the creation of the constituencies has filed an interlocutory injunction, praying the Supreme Court to restrain Parliament from considering the Representation of the People (Parliamentary Constituencies Instrument), 2012 CI 73. However, the Majority Leader, Mr Cletus Avoka says that Parliament, as a constitutional body, cannot be restrained from executing its constitutionally mandated work although he concedes that the Supreme Court can declare an action by Parliament as unconstitutional. Parliament is currently on recess and is expected to be recalled on September 3, 2012 for an emergency sitting to consider CI 73, which has recorded only a day of maturity after it was laid on August 14, 2012. According to the applicant, Mr Ransford France, if the merits of the legal action challenging the creation of the new constituencies are upheld by the Supreme Court and “by that time, the EC has already advanced in its preparations for the conduct of the 2012 General Elections, taking into account the impugned CI 73, the electoral process could be thrown into chaos”. “I am solely motivated by the duty imposed on all Ghanaians in Article 2 (1) to defend the 1992 Constitution, and not any parochial personal interest,” the affidavit in support of the motion for interlocutory injunction said. It added, “Irreparable damage and grave injury will be caused to the people of Ghana if Parliament proceeds to consider the constitutional instrument laid before it and the act of the EC is eventually declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.” Mr France, who has sued the EC and the Attorney-General over the laying of CI 73 in Parliament in his motion for interlocutory injunction, is praying the highest court of the land to order the (EC) from using CI 73 in its preparations for the conduct of the 2012 general election until the hearing and final determination of an action challenging the legality of CI 73. A legal practitioner, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, who filed the motion on behalf of the applicant, also pleaded with the court to grant further orders it deemed fit. The EC has come under attack from the Minority in Parliament and other members of the public, some of whom have filed similar suits challenging the legality of the creation of new constituencies. The leadership of Parliament and the Electoral Commission (EC) on August 14, 2012 agreed to withdraw CI 73 which was to establish 45 new constituencies on account of several fatal errors on the CI 73. The EC has since replaced the CI 73, which had matured after 21 sitting days with an amended one which was expected to mature in 21 Parliamentary sitting days. Mr Dame on July 6, 2012, filed a suit on behalf of an Accra-based businessman, Mr Ransford France, challenging the power of the Electoral Commission (EC) to go ahead with the creation of new constituencies without first laying before Parliament, a constitutional instrument indicating clearly the mechanism, formula or modalities by which it intended to undertake that exercise. Counsel is praying the court to perpetually restrain the EC from laying before Parliament any constitutional instrument creating new constituencies and or revoking the Representation of the People (Parliamentary Constituencies) Instrument, 2004 [CI 46], until it laid before Parliament a constitutional instrument which clearly sets out the processes to be adopted by the EC. However, the Supreme Court has not sat on the matter because judges are currently on legal vacation; that prompted Mr Dame to petition the Chief Justice to empanel judges during the vacation to hear the matter. Nonetheless, the Judicial Service responded and explained that it was impossible to immediately empanel Justices of the Supreme Court to hear the matter because majority of them were out of the jurisdiction on vacation while the remaining had indicated their intention to travel outside the jurisdiction in the first week of September, 2012. Following the Judicial Service’s response to Mr Dame’s appeal, the latter decided to file the injunction process at the Supreme Court in his bid to restrain Parliament from considering CI 73 on Monday, September 3, 2012. An affidavit in support of the motion for interlocutory injunction said the plaintiff was concerned about the fact that notwithstanding the institution of the instant action, the EC, in blatant violation of well-established principles of and in utter disregard for the authority of the court, laid before Parliament CI 73. “In a remarkable haste to ensure that the challenged acts of the EC receives the force of law notwithstanding the pendency of the instant action, the Speaker of Parliament has recalled Parliament from recess to satisfy the constitutional requirement of twenty-one parliamentary sitting days by the last week of September, 2012 for the Representation of the People (Parliamentary Constituencies Instrument), 2012 CI 73 to enter into force,” the affidavit pointed out. According to the affidavit, should the impugned constitutional instrument enter into force before the instant action is heard, that act will undermine the rule of law, the 1992 Constitution and the power of the Judiciary in discharging its constitutional duty of determining disputes between all persons in Ghana once its jurisdiction is properly invoked. Responding to the action by Mr France to prevent Parliament from sitting, Mr Avoka told the Daily Graphic that he was yet to be given any notice about the suit, writes Ato Dapatem. “I have not heard nor seen anything,” he said and explained that Parliament was resuming its sittings not because of one single activity but would consider bills, agreements and other equally important issues pertaining to the development of the country.

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