8 November 2012

Ghana: Court Throws Out NVP

An Accra High Court yesterday, dismissed a request from the New Vision Party (NVP) seeking to prevent the Electoral Commission (EC) from printing Presidential ballot papers for the up-coming general elections slated for December 7, this year.

The court, presided over by Justice Dennis Agyei, an Appeal Court judge, sitting as an additional High court judge, further ruled that the applicant adopted the wrong procedure in seeking redress of its fundamental human rights, emphasizing that a motion should be have been applied rather than coming by way of a writ.

Additionally, the court noted that it has jurisdiction over the matter before it, since the action was not challenging an election of a President. Cost of GH¢500 was, therefore, awarded against the NVP.

Expatiating its ruling, the court noted that an injunction on the printing of presidential ballot papers as requested by the applicant is likely to plunge the country into a Constitutional crisis and would create inconveniences for the country if elections were not held on December 7, this year.

Furthermore, the court indicated that public convenience should always weigh against wishes of the individual.

The ruling of the court followed an motion filed by the NVP requesting the court to place an injunction on the EC and prevent the commission from printing presidential ballot papers for the December 7 election until the final determination of a suit it filed against the commission, after it was disqualified from the context, based on errors on the presidential application forms.

The NVP is seeking to be enlisted on the list of Presidential Aspirants for the 2012 General Elections. It is the view of the NVP that the refusal of the EC in accepting its presidential nomination forms is unlawful and constitutes a serious act of arbitrariness.

Counsel for the applicant, Mr. J.K. Yeboah, yesterday, argued before the court presided over by Justice Dennis Adjei that the arbitrariness exhibited by EC in refusing his clients presidential nomination forms is an infringement of rights under the 1992 Constitution and should, therefore, attract an injunctive order.

According to counsel, Ghana's democracy would be in danger if the EC is not restrained for its "inactions" perpetrated against his client.

Additionally, counsel denied the assertion of the court that it was not at the correct forum as it is the Supreme Court that handles the type of reliefs his client is seeking.

Mr. Yeboah noted that his client is invoking the general jurisdiction of the High court, since his rights under the Constitution had been violated by the EC and, therefore, the High court was the appropriate forum to address the concerns of his client.

However, counsel for the EC. Mr. James Quarshie-Idun opposed the request of the application seeking to restrain his client from proceeding with preparations towards the 2012 Presidential elections.

According to him, the applicant had failed to abide by the rules set out by the EC, as Prophet Nkansah failed to complete his Presidential form before the stipulated closure of receiving forms.

The court has, therefore, fixed November 6, this year, to rule on the application for injunction as well as whether the High court has the jurisdiction to handle the case.

In its argument, Mr. Quarshie-Idun noted that the nomination forms as presented by the applicant were full of blank space, denying that the EC wrongly refused to accept the nomination forms on flimsy grounds.

According to counsel, the applicant was copying from the original nomination form to the duplicate, especially on the last day of submission of nomination forms.

The NVP, in its suit dated October 22, this year, is asking the court to declare as unlawful the refusal of the EC to accept its presidential forms and further asked for a compelling order for the Commission to accept its presidential nomination forms and have it registered.

The plaintiff is also demanding that the EC be compelled to add its name to the presidential ballot papers for the December 7, 2012, presidential election.

In its affidavit filed before the FTC, the NVP noted that it had informed the EC that it would take part in both Parliamentary and Presidential and subsequently took the requisite presidential forms, filled it and presented it as instructed by the EC.

According to the NVP, it presented four copies of presidential nomination forms to officials of the EC on October 18, 2012 at the Commission's Headquarters in Accra for perusal but the officials detected that one of the duplicate forms had not been completely filled.

The Plaintiff further asserted that the omission on his form had to do with the Adaklu District in the Volta Region, where it was required to fill in the particulars of two people from that district, but indicated that when its attention was drawn to the omission ,it quickly filled the two names, "making the forms fully complete".

In explaining the error on its presidential nomination forms, the NVP noted that the details of the two people from the Adaklu District were already on the original copy of the forms that was presented to the EC officials, but indicated that the omission of that of Adaklu District came about when its officials were copying from the original to the duplicate.

The plaintiff pointed out that while its officials were correcting the errors at the offices of the Commission, the EC officials objected to it, adding that even after the chairman of the EC had personally seen that it was only the Adaklu District that was omitted, he went ahead and rejected the forms.

Plaintiff further indicated that it reached the premises of the EC very early, but ended up being called by the EC at about 14:30p.m., adding that it corrected the duplicate forms longs before it was called by the EC to submit its forms, but was unjustifiably rejected.

However, the EC had argued that it was conducting its work in accordance to the Constitution from which it wields its authority.

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