17 January 2013

Ghana: Court Rules On NDC Joinder Jan. 22

The Supreme Court yesterday witnessed great legal arguments, interspersed with lectures on the law, as it commenced hearing a case which is described as one of the biggest test cases in the country's history.

Legal luminary, Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata came face-to-face with Akuffo-Addo, Prempeh & Co. lawyers for the election petitioners, as he leads the National Democratic Congress (NDC) legal team to seek to be joined as party to an election petition filed before the court against the declaration of President John Dramani Mahama as president by the Electoral Commission (EC).

Arguing his case before the court, presided over by Justice William Atuguba, Mr. Tsikata described the petition, filed by the petitioners, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) flagbearer for the 2012 General Elections, Nana Akufo-Addo and two other members of the party, as replete with absurdities and errors.

However, counsel for the petitioner opposed the joinder application by the NDC, as the court fixed January 22, 2013, to give its ruling.

Also mentioned in the petition as co-petitioners include; NPP Vice-Presidential candidate, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia and Jake Okanta Obetsebi-Lamptey, National Chairman, with President John Dramani Mahama and the EC, cited as respondents.

Other Supreme Court Justices on the panel were Justices Julius Ansah, Sophia Adinyira, Rose Owusu, Jones Dotse, Anin-Yeboah, Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Sule Gbadegbe and Vida Akoto-Bamfo.

According to Mr. Tsikata, the NDC as a political party sponsored a candidate to stand in the Presidential election and their candidate was declared winner of the just ended December 2012 election and, therefore, is a necessary party to the suit and should be joined.

It was the view of counsel that the present petition was not brought only by the candidate of the NPP, but also the National Chairman of the party, adding that the petitioners were well informed, as they indicated in their petition that President John Mahama is the candidate of the NDC and won the election.

He further argued that the Political Party Act 2000 (Act 274), Section 5 and 6, gives much credence to the existence of political parties in elections, noting that as per the Public Regulations Act C.I 75, Regulation 12, President John Mahama stood on the platform of the NDC, using the party's name and symbol, and never stood as an independent candidate.

Mr. Tsikata noted that the NDC is seeking to join the proceedings in the interest of justice, since the President was nominated and selected to stand on the platform of the party.

Touching on the absurdities and errors so identified in the affidavit of the petitioners, deposed to by the Nana Akuffo Addo, Mr. Tsikata objected to the assertion that the presidential candidate of the NPP, noting that all Ghanaian have direct interest and stake in the petition, since the status of a president in the Constitution is very significant, and most especially, in respect of Presidential elections.

"NDC took part in Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meetings which did not involve all Ghanaian", Mr. Tsikata intimated.

Furthermore, counsel rebutted the views of the petitioners that the action of the NDC was without merit, bad faith and to cause delay. Mr. Tsikata pointed out that the NDC filed their application on December 31, 2012, three days after the petition was filed, and were ready to move the motion before the court, when the petitioners raised objections about the panel of the court.

He, therefore, saw no delay on the party of his client, as the petitioners claimed.

Counsel was further shocked, when the petitioners noted in their claim that the NDC did not take part in the election. "This is blatantly false", Tsikata stressed, as the entire court was plunged into absolute silence, as he attracted the attention of the bench, the BAR and the court audience.

He also found as logical for the NDC to be joined to the petition as respondent, since it was the validity of the position of President Mahama that is being challenged, adding that the petitioners chose to interpret C.I. 71 in their own meaning.

Mr. Tsikata, therefore, noted that the application for joinder was well founded and must be granted.

In opposing the application, Mr. Philip Addison, lead counsel for the petitioners, viewed the joinder application as completely without merit.

According to him, application for joinder could not apply to petitions, since there are differences of time restrictions applied, noting that the rules under which the application for joinder was brought is ill-fitted, as the law does not allow for joinder.

Mr. Addison, therefore, requested the court to throw out the application since individuals are mandated by the law to bring petitions and not political parties.

He further noted that the petitioner had not made any allegation or reliefs against the NDC and will, therefore, be out of place if they are joined to the petition.

It was further the opinion of the petitioners that counsel for the NDC failed to indicate the details of how the party would be affected by the petition filed before the court, stressing that the time required to file petitions was over and, therefore, the NDC could not have a chance of joining the petition.

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