A civil rights organisation, the Centre for Constitutional Order (CENCORD), has dragged the Electoral Commission (EC), its Chairman, Dr K. Afari-Djan, and his commissioners to the Supreme Court on contempt charges.
According to CENCORD, the EC had failed to comply with a Supreme Court order which gave the nod to more than 13,586, remand and convicted prisoners in the country to exercise their franchise.
The Supreme Court had, in a unanimous decision on March 23, 2010, given prisoners the right to vote and accordingly directed the EC to come up with a Constitutional Instrument (CI) to create the legal framework to facilitate the inclusion of prisoners on the voters register for the next general election.
“This order is to be carried out as soon as practicable and, in any case, within not more than 12 calendar months from today March 23, 2010,” the court held.
However, according to CENCORD, it had conducted a number of checks at the Attorney-General’s Office, the Assembly Press, as well as EC offices, and all pointed to the fact that the EC, its Chairman and its commissioners had to date not complied with the court order.
The plaintiff is, therefore, praying the Supreme Court to cite the EC, Dr Afari-Djan and six commissioners of the EC — Mr David Kangah, Mr Kwadwo Safo Kantanka, Ms Pauline Adobea Dadzawa, Mr Ebenezer Aggrey-Fynn, Ms Rebecca Kabuki Adjalo and Sa-Adatu Maida — for contempt of court.
It is also praying the court to imprison the respondents without giving them any option of a fine, as well as declare them not eligible for election or appointment to any public office for 10 years, beginning with the date of the expiration of the term of imprisonment.
According to the plaintiff, the respondents deserved to be imprisoned because they had “demonstrated a calculated threat to sink the constitutional order to death, having committed a high crime under Clause 4 of Article 2 of the 1992 Constitution and thus must be punished”.
He further argued that the respondents had no respect for the supreme laws as they knew their responsibilities and yet failed to act.
A date is yet to be fixed for the motion to be moved by counsel for the applicant, Mr Dennis Ofosu-Appiah Ofosuapea.
On March 23, 2010, the Supreme Court, presided over by the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, upheld an application filed on behalf of remand and convicted prisoners by two legal practitioners, Mr Ahumah Ocansey and Mr Kojo Graham, of the Centre for Human Rights and Civil Liberties (CHURCIL).
The two had, in separate suits which were consolidated by the court on November 12, 2009, prayed the court to declare as null and void sections of PNDC Law 284 which barred remand and convicted prisoners from voting.
Joined in the suit were the Attorney-General and the EC.
The A-G’s Department had opposed the suit on the grounds that the relief being sought by the two lawyers was against the public interest, while the EC had prayed the court to exclude it from the suit.
The court, however, disagreed.
In a three-and-a-half-hour ruling, the court, which had Dr Justice S.K. Date-Bah, Justice Rose Owusu, Justice Jones Dotse and Justice Annin Yeboah as its members, ruled that the 1992 Constitution, per Article 42, grants all citizens of Ghana who are 18 years and above and are of sound mind the right to be registered to enable them to vote in all public elections and referenda.
‘This right extends or includes all convicted prisoners, irrespective of the provisions of Section 7 (5) of the Representation of the People’s Law, 1992, (PNDC Law 284) which imposes a residency requirement or qualification under which convicted prisoners were deemed disqualified,’ it said.
It, therefore, declared as void Section 7 (5) of PNDC Law 284, since it was inconsistent with Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution.
It further stated that to avoid chaos and hasty decisions, it was imperative for the EC to come up with rules and regulations to regulate the registration exercise.
‘This is to ensure that such an exercise is efficiently and effectively managed, controlled and directed to operationalise the registration of prisoners to enable them to vote in future elections and referenda, such as will ensure harmonious interface with the Prisons Service Act 1972, NRCD 46, and all the other relevant stakeholders,’ the court held among others.
Meanwhile, Mr Ofosuapea has petitioned the President to instruct the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to cause the immediate arrest of the respondents for having contravened Article 24 of the 1992 Constitution.
He also called for the immediate removal of the respondents from office to stand trial.
Source: Graphic Online