Monday, January 28, 2013

Challenge of sale of govt bungalow - Jake wins review case

January 24, 2013 (Front page) THE Supreme Court on January 23, 2013 unanimously affirmed its ruling that the Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, acquired a state bungalow legally. Delivering its ruling in a review application, the 11-member panel held that the applicants “failed to show there was an exceptional error” in the court’s May 22, 2012 decision which declared Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey’s purchase of the bungalow as lawful. “We would, accordingly, dismiss the application as unmeritorious,” Professor Justice S.K. Date-Bah said on behalf of his colleagues. But the President of the panel, Mr Justice William Atuguba, who had, in the earlier ruling, declared the acquisition illegal and a breach of trust, stated, “I reluctantly agree that the review be dismissed.” However, counsel for the applicants, Mr Kwabla Senanu, told journalists after the court ruling that he would pursue the matter further. “l will not let the matter go,” he said, adding, “I am going to the African Commission on Human Rights to seek justice for the people of Ghana because I have exhausted the legal system in Ghana.” On May 22, 2012, the Supreme Court, by a majority 6-3 decision, refused to pronounce as illegal Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey’s acquisition of a state property he once occupied as a minister of state. Dissatisfied with the court’s ruling, the applicants, who are the caretaker Deputy Minister of Information, Mr Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, and the Minister-designate of Communications, Dr Edward Omane-Boamah, applied for a review of the court’s decision on the grounds that its earlier ruling amounted to a miscarriage of justice. But the court, presided over by Mr Justice William Atuguba, with Prof Justice Date-Bah, Mr Justice Julius Ansah, Mrs Sophia Adinyira, Ms Justice Rose Owusu and Mr Justice Dotse, held otherwise. The other members of the panel were Mr Justice Annin Yeboah, Mr Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Mr Justice N. S. Gbadegbe, Mrs Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo and Mr Justice J. B. Akamba. According to the court, the applicants had a “major technical hurdle” to surmount in proving that there was an error on the part of the court in its May 22, 2012 ruling, adding, “The applicants could not convince the court to depart from its earlier decision.” It said the applicants could not establish the essential elements to prove that there had been a miscarriage of justice, adding that the applicants had failed to impress upon the court to depart from its earlier decision. According to the court, under Rule 54 of the Supreme Court Rules, the applicants had the task to indicate the exceptional circumstance under which there had been a miscarriage of justice. They could not also indicate whether they had discovered new and material evidence which was not available before the conclusion of the trial and after due diligence. The court contended that it had “held time and again” that an application for review was not an appeal and must, therefore, not be treated as such in reference to the re-arguing of the case by the lawyer for the applicants, Mr Senanu. Counsel for Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey, Mr R. O. Solomon, prayed the court to award costs against the applicants but it declined and reminded him that it was a constitutional matter. He also urged the court to give “consequential orders” to direct the state to register the land title in the name of Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey, but the court directed him to follow laid down legal procedure. Accompanied by his wife, Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey left the courtroom looking cheerful. The applicants, in 2008, sued the Attorney-General and Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey over the allocation of the bungalow at No 2 Mungo Street in the Ridge Residential Area in Accra to Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey, which he occupied at the time. They contended that Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey’s action contravened articles 20 (5) and 20 (6) of the 1992 Constitution, an action which they claimed smacked of cronyism and gross abuse of discretional powers of a public officer. They thus questioned the legitimacy of the sale, disposal or transfer of any government or public property to Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey, but the Supreme Court eventually held a different view.

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