6 December 2012

Ghana: Afari-Gyan, Two Others Discharged of Contempt

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan and two other officials of the commission have been cautioned and discharged on a contempt of court application, filed against them by four citizens in the Kasena-Nankana District of the Upper East Region, for failing to comply with the order of an Accra High Court, directing them to register some three thousand voters in the district.

The court, presided over by Justice Utter Peter Dery, had convicted Dr. Afari-Gyan, Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Kwadwo Sarfo Kantanka and the District Electoral Officer, Mr. Nicholas Pawiah, for not complying with an earlier court order to register the voters.

However, yesterday, after purging themselves of the contempt, by commencing the registration process at the district, the court rescinded its decision and discharged the respondents.

According to the court, the previous order given by the trial court did not indicate that the voters should be registered in order to enable them take part in the up-coming general election, slated for December 7, this year.

The court further noted that even if the voters were registered on Oct 18, this year, when the order was given, they would not have been eligible to vote in the up-coming December 7 election, since the Constitutional Instrument (C.I.) 72 prevents any voter, whose registration is less than 60 days, to exercise a voting right.

Additionally, the court noted that the respondents have demonstrated enough that they have purged themselves of the contempt of court, slapped on them, stressing that if there were legal impediments, the court could not go contrary to the C.I. 72.

A cost of GH¢1,000 each was awarded against the four applicants in favour of the three respondents.

The ruling followed an application filed before the court, by requesting it to place a punitive and harsh sentence on Dr. Afari-Gyan and the two other respondents in addition to a fine.

Arguing his case before the court, Mr. Ekow Dadzie, counsel for the applicant, questioned why none of the contemptuous could not swear to the affidavit filed before the court, and had to delegate it to someone, who is not a party to the suit before the court.

This, counsel noted, was an indication that the EC chairman and the two other contemnors do not regard the court, adding that the EC could have registered the voters on October 18, when the order was given and that presently only 900 people out of about 3,000 voters had been registered.

It was the view of counsel that the contemnors had no regard to registering the voters since they have made feeble attempts to purge themselves of the contempt of court slapped on them.

Reacting to the assertion of the applicants, Mr. James Quarshie-Idun, counsel for the respondents, urged the court to discharge his clients since they have demonstrated enough to register the voters.

Counsel further told the court that following the order of the trial court on October 18, this year, an announcement was made, and frantic efforts made to register the voters concerned, adding that the EC could not conduct the registration exercise due to some security situation in the area.

Mr. Quarshie-Idun pointed out that the EC is presently conducting the registration exercise in the district and that the number of registration is expected to be more than the 900 indicated by the applicants.

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