Monday, January 28, 2013

Supreme Court hears joinder petition today

January 16, 2013 (Front page) BARRING any last-minute hitch, the much-awaited hearing of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) motion to join a petition challenging the results of the December 7, 2012 presidential election will commence at the Supreme Court in Accra today, January 16, 2013. The motion, which had originally been billed to be moved by the NDC’s legal team on Thursday, January 10, 2013, had to be adjourned sine die because lawyers for the petitioners had objected to the composition of the panel. But the objection was withdrawn barely 24 hours after it had been raised in camera by one of the lawyers for the petitioners, Mr Philip Addison. Following the withdrawal of the objection, the registrar of the Supreme Court, on Monday, January 14, 2013, served hearing notices on lawyers for the parties in the case. A date for the hearing of the substantive petition will be fixed after the court has heard and determined whether or not to allow the NDC to join in its capacity as a political party. Unlike in the past when the Supreme Court was opened to the public, attendance at today’s proceedings will be strictly by invitation and under very heavy security. There will be a large number of security personnel to maintain law and order right from the streets through to the Supreme Court compound and the inner perimeter of the court building. Scanners will be placed at the lower and upper floors of the Supreme Court. People will be thoroughly searched, while cellular phones and other electronic gadgets will not be allowed to be used inside the courtroom. Only accredited journalists, lawyers, party functionaries and members of the public will be allowed entry into the courtroom. A former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Ms Gloria Akuffo, is leading the legal team for the petitioners, while Mr Tony Lithur and Mr Tsatsu Tsikata are leading a number of lawyers to make a case for the President and the NDC, respectively. The EC will be represented by Mr James Quashie-Idun, its lead counsel. A 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 P. Baffoe-Bonnie, Mr Justice N. S. Gbadegbe and Mrs Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo, as panel members, is expected to hear the motion on whether or not the NDC should be allowed to join the petition. The petitioners — the presidential candidate of the NPP, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; his running mate, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, and the Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey — are arguing that the election results were doctored in favour of President Mahama. President Mahama and the EC are the respondents of the petition, which promises to be a landmark in the legal history of Ghana, as the President has indicated his preparedness to call 4,800 witnesses to affirm that he was elected on a clean sheet. The President is accusing the petitioners of making attempts to “subvert the will” of the people and argues that he was elected freely, fairly and in the full glare of the media, domestic and international election observers. The EC, for its part, has denied any wrongdoing and maintains that the results it declared were credible and accurate. Before a date could be set for the hearing of the substantive petition, the NDC filed a motion for joinder and argued that the President stood on its ticket to win the elections and, it was, therefore, imperative for the utmost court of the land to allow it to join the petition. However, Nana Akufo-Addo is opposed to the motion for joinder on the grounds that it is a ploy by the NDC to delay hearing of the petition. Rule 69 C (5) of the Supreme Court (Amendment) Rules, 2012 (CI 74) provides in part as follows: "The court shall sit from day to day, including public holidays" for a speedy disposal of a presidential election petition. By virtue of provisions in the Supreme Court (Amendment) Rules, 2012 (CI 74), the matter will be determined once and for all, since no provision is made for a review of the court’s decision, although the 1992 Constitution gives the court the mandate to review its own decisions. Article 64(1) of the 1992 Constitution provides: “The validity of the election of the President may be challenged only by a citizen of Ghana who may present a petition for the purpose to the Supreme Court within twenty-one days after the declaration of the results of the election in respect of which the petition is presented,” while Article 64(2) says: “A declaration by the Supreme Court that the election of the President is not valid shall be without prejudice to anything done by the President before the declaration.’’ Part VIII of the Supreme Court Rules — Challenge Of Election of President, Rule 68 — provides: “A petition presented pursuant to Clause (I) of Article 64 of the Constitution shall state (a) the full name and address of the petitioner and of his counsel, if any, which shall be an address for service; (b) the grounds for challenging the validity of the election; (c) a statement of the facts relied on to be verified by affidavit, and of the law in support of the petition; (d) the number of witnesses to be called, if any; and by (e) such other matters as the court may determine.” Rule 69 also says: “The Attorney-General and any other person upon whom a petition is served may file with the registrar, within two days of the service, an answer to the petition which shall state (a) the grounds of opposition to the petition; (b) the facts relied upon, verified by affidavit; (c) the law in support of the answer in opposition to the petition; and (d) the number of witnesses to be called, if any.” Rule 71 says: “The court shall, at the conclusion of the hearing of the petition, deliver its judgement and the registrar shall, within seven days of the delivery of the judgement, forward a copy of the judgement to the Electoral Commission.’’

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