10 April 2019

Sierra Leone: 'Petition Cases Must Be Heard and Determined'

The Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Justice Babatunde Edwards, has yesterday ruled that all petition cases that are before the High Court should be heard and determined.

The ruling by the Chief Justice on April 4, 2019, came after looking at the background of a case filed in the Supreme Court by the first respondent, Osman Abdal Timbo, on the grounds that their petition cases had elapsed because they were supposed to be heard within four months.

One of the petition cases was filed by Abdul Suliaman Marray Conteh against Osman Abdal Timbo, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), and its National Returning officer, and the Western Urban District Electoral Commissioner, among others.

He said the petitioners had filed in their case on 19th April, 2018,which elapsed after four months, but the respondents had asked the High Court for a stay of proceeding until the case is being heard by the Supreme Court for the interpretation of Section 78 (1)(2) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.

The said section states: "The High Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine any question whether--

a) any person has been validly elected as a Member of Parliament; and

b) the seat of a Member of Parliament has become vacant.

"(2) The High Court to which any question is brought under subsection (1) shall determine the said question and give judgment thereon within four months after the commencement of the proceedings before that Court."

Justice Edwards further stated that the court was set on 12th November, 2018, to hear the petition cases, but no sooner lawyer Mewah was about to go on than lawyer Brima Koroma, representing the respondents, objected that the four months period for petition cases had elapsed.

Justice Edwards noted that parliament wouldn't have attempted to control the Judiciary under any circumstances.

He said he was going to hear the election petition to its logical conclusion and give judgment at the end of the hearings.

"It could never have been the intention of Parliament for such election petitions not to end," he said, noting that the High Court cannot be stopped from concluding a matter as no amount of interpretation can stop the court from completing its work.

Chief Justice Edwards concluded that the ruling applied to all other petitions cases that are before the High Court for determination.

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