17 January 2013

Ghana: Dotse - I'm Not NPP Man

Justice Jones Dotse, a member of the Supreme Court panel adjudicating the election petition filed before the court, has emphatically denied ever being a member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), or held any executive position of the party in the Volta Region, as was being speculated by some members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

The Supreme Court judge made this statement in open court yesterday, in response to the reaction of some NDC lawyers to an intended objection against the composition of the Supreme Court panel, and requested that if they could prove their allegation, he would stay away from the case.

According to the judge, on January 10, this year, Joy FM, an Accra-based private radio station, carried a news item where Mr. Abrahim Amaliba, a member of the NDC legal team, indicated that his party was also considering opposing a member of the panel, who had held the Regional Chairmanship position of the NPP in the Volta Region.

"Even though I was not mentioned, it is as "if the cup fits, you wear it," the judge noted sarcastically, adding that the issue was further continued on News File, a Joy FM current affairs programme, where his name was specifically mentioned.

He expressed his discontent over the speculations about him, and noted that he did not want his family to be maligned as a result.

On his part, the presiding judge, Justice Atuguba, whose membership on the panel was intended to be objected to by the lawyers of the petitioners, noted that his comment made in court on the last adjourned date was not borne from any radio interview.

According to the judge, he did not hear anything being said on radio regarding objecting to his membership on the panel, but was making a genuine statement to remind members of the Bar of their responsibility to uphold the spirit of the Constitution, and consider issues of public interest.

Meanwhile, the legal team put together by the NPP presidential candidate for the 2012 elections, Nana Akufo-Addo, his vice-presidential candidate, Mahamudu Bawumia, and the NPP National Chairman, Jake Okanta Obetsebi-Lamptey, who are petitioners in the case before the court, reluctantly withdrew their objection against the empanelment of the court.

Mr. Philip Addison, who did not want to withdraw the statement because he did not make it in open court, finally succumbed to pressure after close to an hour of intense arguments between the Bench and the Bar, to pave way for the hearing of a joinder filed before the court by the NDC.

According to Mr. Addison, their intention not to pursue the issues any longer had been communicated in a letter to the Registrar of the Supreme Court, and had subsequently been furnished with a hearing notice to hear the NDC joinder filed before the court, and do not, therefore, "wish to withdraw" in open court.

Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, lead counsel for the NDC, had explained that because the lead counsel for the petitioners raised the objection in court, as a result of which the presiding judge gave a direction to that effect, which was subsequently recorded, it was prudent for the latter to withdraw their objection in open court, if they no longer had the intention to pursue the issue.

Justice Atuguba pointed out that he would really want to walk out of the case, but the principles of a judge did not permit him to do that, adding that he read the direction in open court, and because the issues had Constitutional, legal and public dimensions, he would want the issue raised in open court.

Justice Atuguba emphasised that judges were trustees of the Constitution, and expected to ensure that it works, since they were appointed based on their high moral character.

Justice Dotse, on his part, indicated the fact that the letter withdrawing the objection was not clear, as it only cited its grounds as ensuring the expeditious hearing of the case.

Appearing to be under pressure, Mr. Addison reluctantly noted in open court that his team was completely withdrawing the application, and was no longer going to pursue the objection.

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