4 February 2013

Ghana: Technicalities Mark Supreme Court Sitting

As Ghanaians are very much expectant that the election petition currently filed before the Supreme Court (SC) would make some progress and have the case settled anytime soon, developments from the court showed that the issue might have a long haul to go.

The court, presided over by Justice William Atuguba, was yesterday stuffed with several preliminary applications from all parties in the case filed by Nana Akufo-Addo, New Patriotic Party Presidential Candidate in the December 2012 election and two others, challenging the declaration of President John Dramani Mahama as president, but no headway was arrived at.

Sitting was marked by bitterness and acrimony, as the posture of counsel for the petitioners, Mr. Philip Addison before the court, placed the bench in a seemingly unhappy mood, as they felt being disrespected.

"If you are doing this here, what will you do before the magistrate court?", the presiding judge asked the seemingly defiant Philip Addison with disappointment.

Three applications were made before the court, claiming further and better particulars, resulting in two minor rulings, determining the position and state of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the various applications made, as its counsel, Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, was faced with stiff opposition from counsel for the petitioners, for not responding to the applications filed before the court.

Mr. Tsikata had argued that since the NDC has now become a party to the issue, it has the right under the laws to be heard on every application made, even if it was directly not referred to his client.

However, Mr. Addison noted that since the NDC had not filed any response to the applications, it could not make any submissions on them.

Two applications separately made by the Electoral Commission (EC) and Mr. Tony Lithur, counsel for President Mahama, both respondents to the petition, demanding further and better particulars from Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, NPP vice-Presidential candidate in the 2012 elections and Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, NPP National Chairman, cited as co-petitioners, was short of NDC's submissions.

By a majority of 8:1, Mr. Tsikata was prevented from making his submissions on the issues, after Mr. Philip Addison opposed his attempt, at making an oral submission on the issues currently before the court, but this was short-lived, when a majority of 6:2:1 changed his status during the third application moved by the petitioners, demanding detailed particulars from the EC on the vote cast outside the country.

While six of the panel members indicate that the NDC would be heard only if it files a written response, two persons totally dissented and expressed refusal for the NDC to be heard since the issues was not directed to it, and one person accepting the NDC, which is third respondent in the case to readily make its submissions only on legal grounds.

The court, therefore, adjourned sitting to January 31, this year, to enable the NDC file a written response to the request made by the petitioners and to advance its intended submission.

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.

Arguing the application demanding detailed particulars from the petitioners, Mr. James Quarshie-Idun, counsel for the EC and Mr. Lithur, counsel for President Mahama, noted that the concealed detailed information from the respondents would amount to ambush litigation, which is not in the good interest of speedy determination of the case.

According to them, if the petitioners provide detailed information on all the 2, 0709 polling stations they are alleging widespread irregularities, it would aide them to prepare for the trial, more so since the petitioners have been able to provide detailed information on three of the polling stations.

In his response, counsel for the petitioners opposed the application and argued that the EC has in custody the official declaration forms, which it based the declared results on, adding that it is the petitioners' information being requested, which is the same evidence that his clients would be relying on in the case.

He, therefore, called on the court to dismiss the two applications made by President Mahama and the EC.

Meanwhile, the petitioners in their affidavit, cited as their particulars of evidence to their claim at the Open New Market Polling station in the Amantin Constituency with code G230509, where ninety-seven (97) votes were recorded as having been cast in favour of the NPP Candidate, 1st Petitioner, but for no reason reduced to seventeen (17) at the coalition centre.

Additionally, petitioners indicated that Baptist JSS New Tafo polling station Manhyia South Constituency with code F150306 B, where ninety-six (96) votes were recorded as having been cast in favour of the John Mahama but was, however, increased to nine hundred and sixty (960) votes at the coalition centre.

Furthermore, the petitioners noted that the Nanabuabasa polling station in the Manhyia South Constituency with code F150306 B, four hundred and fifty (450) votes were recorded as having been cast in favour of the 1st petitioner but the number was reduce to four hundred and five (405) at the coalition centre.

Additionally, the petitioners demanded that the EC should be ordered to provide further and better particulars of votes cast outside the country, which included students on scholarships abroad, Foreign Missions abroad, Ghanaians on international assignments and Security Personnel on Peace-Keeping.

According to the petitioners, it had identified some irregularities in the votes cast in these categories of people. In his response, counsel for the EC noted that the request of the petitioners was premature.

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