February 9, 2013 (Page 27)
The Supreme Court on Thursday, refused petitioners challenging the December 2012 presidential elections, access to inspect and make copies of original results from 275 collation centres across the country.
In a unanimous decision, the nine-member panel also rejected the petitioners’ prayer to be allowed to make copies of original of pink sheets from 26,002 polling stations.
“We find the petitioners request superfluous, unnecessary and premature,” the court stated in a ruling read on its behalf by Mrs Justice Sophia Adinyira.
The other members of the panel were: Mr Justice William Atuguba, Mr Justice Julius Ansah, Ms Justice Rose Owusu, Mr Justice Jones Dotse, Mr Justice Annin Yeboah, Mr Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Mr Justice N. S. Gbadegbe and Mrs Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo.
The petitioners, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP); his running mate, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, and the Chairman of the NPP, Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, had pleaded with the court to permit them to inspect and make copies from original results recorded in 275 collation centres.
They had also implored the court to authorise them to inspect and make copies of original results recorded in all 26,002 polling stations across the country, but the court said no, on grounds that they (petitioners) had copies of duplicates upon which they had based their allegations of irregularities.
Touching on the petitioners’ argument that they (petitioners) had a right to access the said documents based on Article 21 (1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution, the court held that their reliance on Article 21 (1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution “is rather lame”.
The petitioners had argued that they had the right under the 1992 Constitution to access the said documents, since they were public documents, but the court reminded them that their party, just as the other political parties which participated in the 2012 general elections, had been given duplicated copies of the said documents.
According to the court, Section 166 of NRCD 323 (Evidence Act) clearly states that the duplicate of an original copy can be tendered in evidence in court.
It said the petitioners had failed to “raise concerns” with the said documents to warrant the court to grant their request, adding that Order 21 Rule 11 (1) of the High Court Civil Procedure Rules (C.I. 47) indicated that orders could be made only when they were necessary.
In this particular instance, the court was of the view that “where a party is in possession of a document, it will be unnecessary to apply to court to order for a copy,” adding that “duplicates are admissible” under the Evidence Act.
It took into cognisance its February 5, 2013 ruling, which directed the Electoral Commission (EC) to answer all questions posed by the petitioners, as well as an order it directed at the petitioners to furnish the EC and other parties in the case with further and better particulars on the alleged irregularities at 4,709 polling stations before arriving at its decision.
The other respondents in the case are President Mahama and the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The court submitted further that the petitioners had relied on the said documents to raise issues of irregularities in December 7, 2012 polls, and for that reason, their rights had not been infringed upon under the 1992 Constitution.
“They failed to make a case for us to order the Electoral Commission to produce documents for inspection. They have failed to convince the court on how their rights under Article 21 (1) (f) have been infringed upon,” the court said, and consequently stressed that “the petitioners motion of discovery and inspection is dismissed”.
It said discoveries could be made at any time during trials, and not at the end of pleadings, adding that the petitioners’ prayer for the original documents was “premature”.
Background to application for discoveries
Counsel for the petitioners, Mr Philip Addison, had on February 5, 2013 argued that although the petitioners had photocopies of the said documents, the signatures of presiding officers did not appear on most of the pink sheets and it was, therefore, important that the court allowed them (petitioners) to have access to the said documents.
However, counsel for the EC, Mr James Quashie-Idun, stated that Order 21 Rule 6 of the High Court Civil Procedure Rules (C.I. 47) states that the court could order a discovery only if it was necessary.
Under the present circumstance, counsel was of the view that the discovery being sought by the petitioners was not necessary because they already had copies of the documents.
He said Dr Bawumia had on January 25, 2013 stated in an affidavit sworn on behalf of the other two petitioners that they (petitioners) had copies of the documents “for which they are seeking discovery”.
Mr Quashie-Idun accused the petitioners of embarking on a “fishing expedition”, adding that the burden of proof was on the petitioners.
“They started with 4,709 polling stations. Now they are claiming for 26,002 polling stations. This is oppressively unnecessary,” Mr Quashie-Idun remarked.
The court eventually upheld the EC’s opposition.
The Petition - President and EC’s denials
The petitioners filed a petition at the Supreme Court, dated December 28, 2012 and noted, among other things, that irregularities recorded at 4,709 polling stations favoured President Mahama.
They, however, amended their petition on January 31, 2013 to request the Supreme Court to annul 4,670,504 valid votes cast during the election at 11,916 polling stations where alleged irregularities were recorded.
They are also seeking to introduce the claim that there were 28 locations where elections took place, which, according to them, were not part of the 26,002 polling stations created by the EC.
The court has since allowed the amendment into the court’s records.
The President and the EC denied the claims and have both described the election results as credible and accurate.