Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Supreme Court to rule on Feb 5 - On issues raised by parties

February 1, 2013 (Front Page) THE Supreme Court will on February 5, 2013, rule on whether or not, to order petitioners challenging the December 2012 presidential elections, to furnish President John Dramani Mahama and the Electoral Commission (EC) with additional particulars. The court will also decide whether or not to direct the EC to answer a number of questions set out by the petitioners. President Mahama and the EC are praying the court to order the petitioners to furnish them with "further and better particulars" with respect to the names and codes of the 4,709 polling stations, constituencies and regions where alleged electoral irregularities took place but the petitioners are of the view that the court must not allow the EC to be permitted to employ an application for further and better particulars to compel the petitioners to disclose the nature of evidence they intend to lead during the trial. Aside the petitioners opposition to the demands of the President and the EC, they filed a motion for leave to serve the EC with a number of interrogatories. They are requesting the EC to provide them with details of the names and addresses of persons who were registered overseas and the mode and manner those persons were registered. The petitioners are also asking for declaration forms for all polling stations in the 2012 Presidential elections, minutes of all meetings held between the EC and political parties between 2010 and 2012 as well as special voters list used in the 2012 Presidential elections. A petition to the Supreme Court, dated December 28, 2012, has noted among other things, that irregularities recorded at 4,709 polling stations, favoured President Mahama. The petitioners are the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the December 2012 presidential elections, his running mate, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia and the Chairman of the NPP, Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey. According to the petitioners, 24,000 of the pink results sheets from some polling stations indicated that those irregularities were enough to affect the outcome of the presidential election. They are accordingly requesting the court to annul results declared in the polling stations where the alleged irregularities were recorded but the EC which organized the elections has denied the claims and insisted the results declared were accurate and credible. President Mahama is the first respondent while the EC is the second respondent in the petition. On January 29, 2013 National Democratic Congress (NDC), was allowed to join as the third respondent following an application it filed to join. Petitioners and President absent in court The petitioners, who have been present since the court commenced hearing of preliminary issues bordering on the petition, were absent at the court’s sitting in Accra today. They were represented by the first Vice Chairman of the NPP, Mr Fred Oware while the General Secretary of the NDC, Mr Johnson Asiedu-Nketiah appeared on behalf of the NDC. President Mahama was also absent but the EC was represented by a Deputy Chairman of the EC, Mr Sarfo Kantanka. The Panel 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 G. S. Gbadegbe and Mrs Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo will make a decision on the application from the EC, the petitioners and the President. The Rules of Court Rule 69 A (4) of the Supreme Court (Amendment) Rules, 2012 (C.I. 74), says a respondent may apply for further and better particulars in order to prepare adequately for a case. The parties in the case are, therefore, relying on this rule to make their claims for additional documents. Legal arguments The lead counsel for the EC, Mr James Quashie-Idun, had moved the motion for further and better particulars on January 29, 2013 and argued that the interrogatories filed by the petitioners, were premature because an earlier application for further and better particulars, had not been determined by the court. He also clarified at the court’s sitting today that no voting took place outside Ghana adding “all voting took place in 26,002 polling stations in Ghana.” One of the lawyers for the petitioners, Mr Philip Addison, replied and stated “we are not talking about voting outside the country. We are asking for voters’ register for overseas”. NDC’s opposition to Petitioners’ interrogatories. Moving an application to oppose the petitioner’s motion for leave to serve the EC with interrogatories, lead counsel for the NDC, Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, argued that none of the proposed interrogatories neither necessary nor material to fairly dispose the cause of the matter. He said the interrogatories were simply aimed at causing a delay in the expeditious determination of the petition. Describing the petitioner’s interrogatories as a “fishing expedition”, Mr Tsikata, prayed the court not to countenance it especially in the exercise of its inherent jurisdiction. According to counsel, the inherent jurisdiction of the court was being invoked by the petitioners to purse what he termed, “clearly an abuse of the court’s processes,” adding “no issue arises about the registration processes for the purposes of the orders the petitioners seek - much less, registration conducted in embassies, peace keeping missions.” Mr Tsikata informed the court that the answers being sought from the EC will in no way advance the adjudication of the case that had been pleaded by the petitioners about the alleged irregularities at the 4,709 polling stations during voting on December 7 and 8, 2012. For instance, counsel argued the contention of the petitioners bordered on votes cast adding that “broadening the petition beyond the scope of matters in the petition” was an abuse of the spirit of C. I. 74 which sought to expedite petitions challenging presidential election results. Mr Tsikata submitted further that C. I. 74 itself did not have a specific provision on interrogatories and held that the Order 22 (4) of the Civil Procedure Rule clearly outlined issues which were deemed to be material in determining a case adding that “your Lordships are obliged to apply a stricter criteria in the interest of justice as well as resolution of the matter.” “My Lords, do not sit on the petition as if it were a research project of an academic nature. There is absolutely no basis to how the research project they propose to the honourable court is going to advance the determination of this petition,” Mr Tsikata submitted. He argued that the heart of the petition was about alleged irregularities at 4,709 polling stations and said “there is absolutely no indication in the pleadings on how the interrogatories relate to any information as to what happened in those 4,709 polling stations.” According to Mr Tsikata, it will be “dangerous” for the court to adopt the petitioners “wide scope of enquiry.” Mr Philip Addison’s case for the petitioners. Mr Addison's case for the Petitioners Mr Addison held that Mr Tsikata’s arguments were not tenable because the issue of over voting had been raised by the petition and for that reason, it was important for “issues to be cleared”. “Interrogatories relate to matters in issue between the petitioners and the second respondent. They are necessary and fair in the disposition of the petition,” Mr Addison stressed. At that point, Mr Tsikata rose to his feet and enquired from the Bench whether or not Mr Addison was re-arguing his case but Mr Justice Atuguba intervened and said “he is responding to issues you have raised.” Mr Addison continued and argued that the interrogation was between “two parties and not three parties. This is between the petitioners and the second respondent and not a third or fourth respondent”. He laid emphasis on the phrase “between the second respondent and the petitioners” in clear affirmation of the petitioners opposition to the NDC being joined to the petition. Mr Addison held that the EC was represented by a very senior counsel who did not deem it necessary to raise issues being raised by Mr Tsikata. Responding to Mr Tsikata’s claim that the petitioners had a motive to amend their petition because of the interrogatories, counsel said “I do not know where it came from,” and maintained that the intention of the interrogatories was not to prolong the case but to shorten it. The “Red Devil” Mr Addison argued that the NDC was not served with the petitioners’ interrogatories and stressed that it was a matter between the EC and the petitioners and accordingly described NDC’s intervention as “nothing more than a Red Devil.” Mr Tsikata responded and said his client had been served with the interrogatories by the EC and the President based on the court’s orders that the NDC be served with all processes. Mr Addison responded by stating that his records showed the NDC had not been served adding “if you make photocopy privately that is a different issue.” His comments drew a huge uproar from the packed courtroom but Mr Tsikata, who also laughed declined to comment. The presiding judge after conferring with his colleagues then moved in and slated February 5, 2013 as the date for ruling on the matter. Security was as usual very stringent. Only accredited persons were allowed into the courtroom. END.

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