15 January 2013

Ghana: The Full Court, Please


Last Thursday, January 10, 2013, the Supreme Court could not, as scheduled, begin hearing in the motion by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to be joined to the petition filed by three stalwarts of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) against the result of the December 7, 2012 presidential election.

The NPP men - Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, 2012 presidential candidate, Dr Muhammadu Bawumia, vice-presidential candidate and Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, NPP Chairman - had asked the Supreme Court to declare President John Dramani Mahama, declared President-elect by the Electoral Commission on December 9, as not validly elected, and instead declare Akufo-Addo as the one validly elected that day.

The petitioners named the respondents in the suit as the Electoral Commission and John Dramai Mahama, 2012 NDC presidential candidate. The NDC, as the political party which nominated and gave Mahama its platform, felt aggrieved that it was not cited among the respondents.

Following a motion for joinder, the NDC filed at the Supreme Court registry and which the petitioners oppose, the Court fixed last Thursday to hear the application for joinder, to pave the way for hearing the petition for annulment of the Mahama presidency.

But it was not to be, as the lawyers to the petitioners raised a preliminary objection to the composition of the 9-member court, empanelled to hear both the joinder and the petition, with Justice Atuguba presiding.

Following opposition by President Mahama's legal team to hearing the preliminary objection in Chambers, Justice Atuguba ruled that the objection be brought by way of a formal motion, and adjourned the case indefinitely, for the court to await the pleasure of the petitioners.

Within 24 hours, however, the petitioners' lawyers announced that they have had a change of heart and written to the Supreme Court registry to withdraw their objection to the composition of the panel.

Apparently, they had suddenly realised that objection to the composition of a court, though permitted under the rules of court, was a two-edged sword that could delay the hearing of the petition for months.

As we await the new date from the court for hearing the joinder, The Chronicle would like to suggest that the full 13 Justices of the Supreme Court, with the Chief Justice presiding, be empanelled to hear the motion for joinder, the petition itself and all related issues.

First, the issue of the annulment of the presidency of an elected and duly sworn-in president and Commander-in-Chief is a constitutional one, and in other jurisdictions, the full court sits on all constitutional matters.

Second, though the objection has been withdrawn, the waters have already been dirtied. Since it has amply been indicated by the petitioners that they have some darling justices of the court, it is to be expected that the respondents also have theirs.

In the considered view of The Chronicle, it is in the national interest to avoid a situation, whereby any party to the suit would have opportunity to claim "we said so", and thereby blame any resultant predicament on extraneous factors and not the merit of its case.

Empanelling the full court would deny all parties to the petition the opportunity to claim that they lost because justices they know to be favourable to their cause were not on the panel.

To the honourable justices of the Supreme Court, The Chronicle regrets the suggestion that some of you may not be dispensing justice without fear of favour, according to the oath you swore, but that you are tied to the apron strings of some puppet masters, to whose music you dance willy-nilly. That is most unflattering, if not demeaning.

The Supreme Court is the apex of the judicial ladder; no justice of the court needs promotion to any other place, unless to become Chief Justice, But how many justices of the Supreme Court have we had since independence and how many made it to CJ? Just a handful.

As in everything else, it is God who elevates justices to the Supreme Court. The human agency, through which one gets there is just a means to an end - the end of serving Mother Ghana.

To twist the law in favour of such an agency when he or she does not deserve or merit it, is a crime against God and humanity, for which one would make recompense with time.

For vengeance is the Lord's.

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