Monday, January 28, 2013

NDC joinder to election petition - COURT RULES TUESDAY

January 17, 2013 (Lead Story) THE Supreme Court, has fixed January 22, 2013 to decide whether or not to allow the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to join a petition challenging the declaration of President John Dramani Mahama winner of the December 2012 presidential election. The court arrived at the date after four hours 25 minutes of legal submissions. It took an hour for the lead counsel for the NDC, Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, to justify why the NDC must be made to join the petition and an additional hour for the lead counsel for the petitioners, Mr Philip Addison, to oppose the NDC’s application to join the case, which promises to be a landmark in Ghana’s legal history. An additional 40 minutes was expended on whether or not there was the need for lawyers for the petitioners to officially and openly withdraw their objection to the composition of the nine-member panel, presided over by Mr Justice William Atuguba, with Mr Justice Julius Ansah, Mrs Justice Sophia Adinyira, Ms Justice Rose Owusu, Mr Justice Jones Dotse, Mr Justice Annin Yeboah, Mr Justice P. Baffoe-Bonnie, Mr Justice N. S. Gbadegbe and Mrs Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo as panel members. Prior to the hearing of the motion, Mr Addison had refused to openly withdraw the objection of the petitioners, namely, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the December 2012 elections; his running mate, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, and the Chairman of the NPP, Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, on the grounds that he had not raised the objection in open court. Mr Addison insisted that his team did not make its objection to the composition of the panel in open court during the court’s sitting on January 10, 2013 and read out a letter dated January 11, 2013 which said the petitioners had withdrawn their objection to the composition of the panel. He argued that it was rather some members of the NDC legal team who publicly mentioned the name of the judge the petitioners were opposed to. After back and forth arguments between Mr Addison and Mr Tsikata, with occasional interventions from the judges, Mr Addison eventually stated, “I completely withdraw.” The remaining two hours 25 minutes was used on a 27-minute break, brief comments from some members of the panel, a series of legal arguments from lawyers in the case, objections, counter-objections, brief rulings from the bench, as well as legal interaction between the judges and the lawyers. The petitioners, on December 28, 2012, filed a petition at the Supreme Court challenging the election results on the grounds that the Electoral Commission (EC) deliberately manipulated the election results to favour President Mahama, but the NDC filed a motion for joinder on December 31, 2013, arguing that it was an interested party because the President stood for the elections on its ticket. Moving the motion, Mr Tsikata prayed the court to allow his client to join the petition as a respondent, on the grounds that the name and the symbol of the NDC were displayed against President Mahama’s photograph. “We seek to join the matter in the interest of justice because President Mahama was selected and agreed to stand on the platform after the death of Professor John Evans Atta Mills,” he said. He said it would “advance the interest of justice” if the NDC was made to join the petition as respondents. Responding to the petitioners’ affidavit in opposition, Mr Tsikata denied assertions that the NDC’s application for joinder was intended to delay the petition and argued that the party filed its motion three days after the filing of the petition. “All evidence point to our acting promptly,” he said, and further argued that President Mahama did not contest the election as an individual but on the ticket of the NDC. He further submitted that Dr Bawumia and Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey did not partake in the election as candidates, but had filed a petition and for that reason it was only fair that the NDC was made to join. Opposing the motion, Mr Addison said the application was completely unmeritorious and further argued that the NDC did not file its application under the proper rules of court. According to him, the motion for joinder would delay the trial and, therefore, delay the purpose of the new Supreme Court rules aimed at expediting the hearing of petitions challenging results of presidential elections. He further argued that the President was an Executive President and not there as the President for the NDC, arguing that such was the reason individuals could stand elections as independent candidates. Counsel maintained that nowhere had the NDC stated how it would be directly affected by the court’s decision on the petition and, accordingly, prayed the court to dismiss the motion. Counsel for the President, Mr Tony Lithur, associated himself with the NDC’s application and accordingly, prayed the court to grant it. The EC, for its part, declined to react to the application and left the matter to the discretion of the court.

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