– Raymond Atuguba & David Annan Explain Supreme Court Judgment
Senior law lecturer, Dr. Raymond Atuguba, has stated categorically that Abu Ramadan and his colleague, Evans Nimako, who sued the Electoral Commission (EC) over the validity of the voters’ register, lost the case at the Supreme Court.
According to him, the substantive reliefs that were being sought by the plaintiffs, were not granted by the apex court.
Abu Ramadan and Evans Nimako led by Nana Asante Bediatuo; a cousin of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) flagbearer, Nana Akufo-Addo, went to the Supreme Court, asking for a number of things, including the removal of names of persons who used the NHIS card as proof of citizenship to register.
The Supreme Court, had in an earlier judgment in 2014, declared the NHIS card unconstitutional as a document conferring citizenship.
On the back of this judgment, Abu Ramadan, a brother in-law of the NPP running mate, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, and his colleague asked the Court to order the EC to declare the electoral roll unconstitutional, because of the presence of persons who used the outlawed card to register on the electoral roll.
The Court, however, refused to hold that the voters’ register was unconstitutional and void, but said it was neither reasonably credible nor accurate.
This has generated enormous amount of confusion. While the EC, insists there is no express directive from the court on the exact time and the methodology for the removal of names of NHIS card holders, Abu Ramadan, claims that the court ordered the election management body to immediately remove such names before the November polls.
Commenting on the judgment on Joy FM and MultiTV’s News analysis programme, Newsfile last Saturday, the law lecturer said, many Ghanaians, including lawyers are confusing themselves with the judgment of the court.
“…This is where many people are going astray. If in substance (the judgment) does not lead to actual orders for someone to do something, then you have not gotten anything.
“On the matters that are of concern to Ghanaians, on the substance (that was taken to court) the plaintiffs got zero percent of the reliefs. It cannot be said that they have won their case.
“The judgment is clear but a section of Ghanaians are trying to pitch the judgment in their own idiosyncrasies,” he explained.
He added that, the Supreme Court, refrained from ordering the immediate removal of NHIS registrants from the register, because it recognizes that it will be improper and impractical for it to meddle in the internal affairs of the EC, adding that the Supreme Court, ordering the automatic deletion of some names from the electoral roll are wrong.
He said, “first thing is that the Court ordered that the register should be cleaned and by cleaning, the Court meant that people whose names should not be on the register should be taken out.”
To that extent, the Court ordered “That the Electoral Commission takes steps immediately to delete or as is popularly known ‘clean” the current register of voters to comply with the provisions of the 1992 Constitution, and applicable laws of Ghana.”
Dr. Atuguba, who teaches law at the University of Ghana Law School, said, “The court did not order that they should be automatically taken out and the Court did not order that they should be struck down.”
He said, if the Court was so minded, it could have on its own, “struck out the names of all persons who do not qualify to vote. They have the power to do that but they declined to do that.”
According to him, the Supreme Court could “have ordered the Electoral Commission to automatically take out all the names of all the people who shouldn’t be on the register; the Supreme Court declined to do that.”
Dr Atuguba, said the Court declined primarily, because it was inappropriate for a court to “over meddle in the internal functioning of an independent constitutional body. It is not only inappropriate, it is impracticable for the Supreme Court to watch over the functioning of the Electoral Commission on a day-by-day basis.”
For him, the Court’s declaration that “…the current register of voters which contains the names of persons who have not established qualification to be registered is not reasonably accurate or credible,” is immaterial.
What is important, he argued, was that the apex court declined an invitation to declare the register unconstitutional.
He said, it was not practicable for any country to have an accurate voters’ register. “The elections can be run on a register that is not credible and that is not accurate. In fact, 99 percent of all registers all over the world – as Jon Benjamin (UK High Commissioner ) has told us – is not credible and not accurate; it is impossible to register millions and millions of voters and get an accurate register,” he said.
Dr. Atuguba, argued that attaining a credible and accurate register “is a hope, a wish an aspiration we work towards.”
Meanwhile, a private legal practitioner and a member of the legal team of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC), David Annan, has described Justice Jones Dotse’s interview with the media last week over the Supreme Court’s ruling, as problematic and unfortunate.
“There is a problem with what Justice Dotse said. What he did is unethically. There was no need for a sitting and a current Supreme Court judge to give search an interpretation. He knows that his comments was unethical. This not done, for a sitting judge to give an interpretation of an interpretation over an interpretation given”.
The lawyer said it would be important to note that, the order did not specifically order the EC to delete names of persons who registered with the NHIS cards, thus any attempt to apply for contempt against the EC will fail since the Commission has not disobeyed the court order.
“The EC has not said that they will not delete any names. That is not true, and that is why any contempt to apply for contempt will fail. It will fail on the grounds that the order itself does not specifically state that they should remove NHIS names, that is the first point. And the second point why any attempt to go for contempt will fail is because the EC has not disobeyed the court order; in fact they have started that they are going to comply with it”.
He added “the issue is, some people in the NPP want the EC to automatically delete the names by their own volition. According to the NPP, the EC has said that they have the software to identify such persons when it was evident in court that, the EC denied knowledge of such registrants.”
The lawyer, insisted that the ruling explained explicitly in their ruling that the EC, should delete undesirable names on the register, but not specifically those who registered with NHIS cards.
Justice Dotse, has exposed himself to public criticism based on his comments or media interview he granted on the ruling.
”There was no need for Justice Dotse to make that statement. Because by doing so, you expose yourself to criticisms.
Secondly if the case is brought back before the Supreme Court, and there is any dispute as to the interpretation, you will have to excuse yourself, because you already know where you stand on the issue, and that is the problem.
The third problem with what he said is that, those who do not understand the ruling should come back to court. You do not first of all encourage litigants by encouraging the petitioners to come back to court. When you give a ruling on a matter in court, you do not comment on it again, period.”
Lawyer David Annan in an interview with Rainbow Radio, concluded that the judge had no business encouraging parties to come back to court over a court ruling.
He emphasized that the court could not direct the EC, as to how to go about their functions but can only order to discharge their functions, as entrenched by law.
“There is no difficult in understanding what the ruling is, because both the petitioners and the NPP are being mischievous. The ruling was clear and there is no way the petitioners can go back to court to seek interpretation of an interpretation given by the court”.