Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunyani court upholds petition filed by NPP

The Sunyani High Court, presided over by Mr Justice Francis Kwabena Opoku, who is also the Supervising High Court Judge, has upheld that the petition filed by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) parliamentary candidate for the Asutifi South Constituency, Mr Yiadom Boakye-Boateng, in the December 7, 2008 election was properly brought before the court.

Mr Justice Opoku indicated that a critical scrutiny of Section 20 (1) of the Representation of the People Law, 1992 empowers the high court to declare the election of a candidate void if satisfied that there had been noncompliance with any provision of the law and regulations made under the law.

According to Mr Justice Opoku, a perusal of the original petition indicated that the first amendment and re-amendment showed a common denominator, meaning that the petitioner was accusing the electoral officers, namely the presiding officers, polling agents, the security personnel and the NDC candidate of involving themselves in electoral malfeasance.

In other words, he said the petitioner was impugning the integrity of the election officers for having compromised their credibility, and that as he understood it, the applicant was also attacking them for misconduct.

Put differently, the presiding judge noted that the petitioner's worry was that the behaviour of the respondents, viewed in the context of the conduct of elections, constituted "grave or gross misconduct and so cannot trust or have confidence in the manner in which they performed their duty in respect of the two ballot boxes".

Citing several electoral petitions that had been brought before other high courts and disposed of and quoting relevant rules and regulations regarding the conduct of elections in the country as well as relying on the 1992 Constitution and other legal authorities, the presiding judge said, "It is for these reasons that 1 held the petition filed by Mr Yiadom Boakye-Boateng of the NPP as properly laid before the court".

In his 16-page ruling, which the Daily Graphic chanced on a certified true copy, Mr Justice Opoku did not make any order regarding cost.

When the case was called on January 19, 2008, the court adjourned sine die (indefinitely) following a notice received by the presiding judge to the effect that the EC had filed an appeal against his earlier ruling in the case.

"I do not show disrespect to the Court of Appeal by calling the case."

The Court of Appeal is, however, to hear the case on Tuesday, February 17, 2009.

On December 22, 2008, the Sunyani High Court overruled preliminary objections raised by counsel for respondents in the case, namely the EC, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate, Alhaji Collins Dauda, and the District Electoral Officer for the Asutifi District, but deferred its ruling, since according to the judge, he had not completed his research on the subject.

Counsel for the respondents argued that the petition was not properly brought before the court, because the applicant did not wait for 21 days after the declaration, publication and gazetting of the parliamentary results as required by law before doing so.

They, therefore, described the petition as premature and further urged the court not to entertain the action by the applicant, but to dismiss it in its entirety, describing the amendment to the original motion as an afterthought, which should also be struck out by the court.

However, the applicant, who was represented by a team of lawyers, led by Mr Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, for his part, insisted that since the whole process of collating the results of the parliamentary elections in the constituency was fraught with certain corrupt and illegal practices, including the swapping of the ballot in the Twabidi No.1 and Twabidi No.2 polling stations, the court ought to investigate.

The applicant filed an election petition and a motion for interim injunction, restraining the 1st and the 3rd respondents from declaring the parliamentary election held in the Asutifi South Constituency in the Brong Ahafo Ahafo on December 7, 2008.

In the motion, the plaintiff said, "Please, take notice that Messrs Asomah-Cheremeh & Co., counsel for and on behalf of the petitioner/applicant herein will move this honourable court for an order, restraining the 1st and 3rd respondents herein from declaring the parliamentary election results held in the Asutifi South Constituency on the December 7, 2008 as upon the grounds set out in the accompanying affidavit. And for such further order(s) as the honourable court may deem fit to make."

In his l7-point petition, accompanied by an affidavit, the NPP candidate contended, among other issues, that "it is clear that the results of the constituency had been tampered with, and that fairness cannot be achieved in this circumstances, and for that matter, do crave the indulgence of the honourable court to investigate and take a firm decision on it either to discount two ballot boxes and declare the winner or the entire parliamentary results of the constituency be annulled and fresh election for the parliamentary held".

Subsequent to the motion, Mr Boakye-Boateng, who contested the election with Alhaji Collins Dauda of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), who was also the incumbent Member of Parliamentary (MP) for the area, and Mr George Okyere of the Democratic Peoples' Party (DPP) has observed that the parliamentary election in the Asutifi Constituency was rather characterised by some corrupt practices and, therefore, prayed the court to investigate the matter.

Source: Daily Graphic

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