GBA’s directive to members on conference fee justified - High Court

BY: Mabel Aku Baneseh

The Human Rights Division of the High Court yesterday held that the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) was justified in directing its members to pay subscription fees before they will be allowed to vote at this year’s annual general conference.

Dismissing a suit challenging that directive, the court held that the GBA’s directive to its members was consistent with its Constitution and, therefore, lawful.

A member of the GBA, Mr Felix S. Y. Ntoso, sued the association over a fiat from it that only members who had made payment for the 2018 annual Bar Conference, paid their dues and had valid licence would be allowed to vote at the conference which takes place from today.

According to the applicant, the GBA’s inclusion of payment of dues as one of the criteria for voting was inconsistent with the provisions of its constitution, but the GBA raised a preliminary objection and prayed the High Court to dismiss the suit on grounds of it being frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the court’s process.

Delivering the court’s decision in Accra yesterday, the presiding judge, Mrs Justice Gifty Agyei-Addo, said the GBA’s directive to its members on the payment of conference fees was consistent with article 22 (4) of the GBA Constitution.

Article 22 (4) of the GBA Constitution states that: “For the purposes of this Constitution, a member is of good standing if as a registered member he is not at the given time in default of payment of any subscription or levy payable and is not in breach of any decision of the association.”

Levy justified

Justice Agyei-Addo accordingly held that the levy was justified and for that reason the suit was frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the court’s process.

She, therefore, struck out the plaintiff’s statement of claim and entire suit. There was no order as to cost.

Dismiss case

Moving the application for the dismissal of the case at the court’s sitting in Accra last Thursday, counsel for the GBA, Mr Kizito Beyuo, prayed the court to consider the case of the applicant as had been pleaded.

He said the court should also examine if the phrase “lawyer in good standing” had been defined in the GBA’s Constitution and if that turned out in the affirmative, the court should proceed to describe the applicant’s case as frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the court’s process.

According to counsel, the plaintiff’s case was frivolous and did not deserve to proceed on trial because there were no triable issues.

Applicant’s case

Counsel for the applicant, Mr Louis Kudjoe Blewusi, disagreed with the GBA’s arguments and insisted that the constitution of the GBA was being flouted.

He further argued that his client had raised triable issues, which needed to be considered on their merit.

Mr Blewusi said although attending the conference was voluntary, members of the GBA in good standing had every right to vote.

He said the GBA Constitution described paid-up members as those who have valid licence to practise and had paid their annual dues to date.

Mr Blewusi argued that should the defendant be allowed to go on with that plan, many members of the GBA would be disenfranchised.

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