GIS deports Indian businessman Sivaram after Supreme Court quashed High Court decision

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson

The repatriation of Mr Ashok Kumar Sivaram, an Indian businessman, has enraged workers of his company, Jai Mai Communications Limited, which specialises in the installation and maintenance of fibre optic cables.

The workers, numbering about 30, staged a demonstration on the company’s premises at Laterbiokoshie on Monday, demanding the return of the businessman. 

Clad in red armbands and chanting war-like songs, the workers called on the government to allow their chief executive officer back into the country in order to protect their jobs.

They carried placards with inscriptions such as: “Bring back our boss”, “We need him now”, “Mr President, please intervene’’ and “Please do not sack investors’’.

The Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) repatriated Mr Sivaram three days after the Supreme Court quashed a High Court decision that ordered the restoration of his residence and work permits which had been revoked by the GIS.

According to sources, Mr Sivaram was whisked away by six Immigration officials from his house at Laterbiokoshie in Accra about 10 a.m. last Sunday.


Workers’ cry

One of the workers, who identified himself as Ali, told the Daily Graphic that the workers staged the demonstration because of fears that the repatriation of their boss would result in job losses.

According to him, Jai Mai Communications employed about 300 workers who were working on fibre optic projects all over the country.

“If the government does not allow our boss to return, we will march to the Immigration office and the Flagstaff House. As a nation, we are crying for investors to come and create businesses, but if this is how we will treat them, where will the jobs come from?’’ he asked.

Another worker, who only gave his name as Kwame, appealed to the government to reconsider its decision to repatriate the businessman and rather give him an opportunity to regularise his stay in the country.

‘Notice to leave’

In a ‘Notice to leave’ order dated March 9, 2018, the GIS informed the businessman that his permit to reside in Ghana had expired and, therefore, he must leave the country “within 48 hours’’.

“You are hereby informed that your permit to remain in Ghana has expired. In accordance with Section 20 (1) of the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573), you shall not remain in Ghana. Your continued presence in Ghana is, therefore, unlawful.

“Consequently, the Comptroller-General of Immigration, acting in accordance with Section 21 of Act 573, has ordered that you be repatriated from Ghana,’’ the notice stated.

It was signed by Mr Laud O. Affrifah, the Deputy Comptroller-General of the GIS in charge of Operations.

Permits restoration quashed

Mr Sivaram was repatriated because he had no legal status to be in the country, following a Supreme Court decision.

On March 8, 2018, the court quashed a decision by the Accra High Court which had ordered the Comptroller-General of the GIS to restore Mr Sivaram’s residence and work permits which had been revoked by the GIS.

In a unanimous decision, the five-member panel of the apex court held that the High Court had no legal standing to issue the order because Mr Sivaram had failed to exhaust all administrative processes before going to court.

The businessman, the court held, should have petitioned the Minister of the Interior within seven days after his residence and work permits had been revoked by the GIS, as stipulated by Section 46 of the Immigration Act (200), (Act 573), before heading to court.

According to Section 46 of Act 573, when an immigrant is dissatisfied with the revocation of his permits by the GIS, he should petition the Minister of the Interior, who will then set up a committee to investigate the revocation and advise him accordingly.

The act stipulates that the committee shall not include any official of the GIS.

In view of Mr Sivaram’s failure to follow the act, the court ruled that the High Court should not have entertained his application for mandamus to compel the GIS to restore his permits.

The ruling by the court followed a certiorari application filed by the Attorney-General (A-G), seeking the court to quash the order by the High Court.

Genesis

Since May 2017, Mr Sivaram had been embroiled in a legal battle with the GIS, from the High Court all the way to the Supreme Court, to ensure that he continued to reside in the country.

The GIS accused Mr Sivaram of using a fake marriage certificate to support his application for permanent residence permit and, therefore, repatriated him on June 1, 2017, per a repatriation order signed by the Minister of the Interior, Mr Ambrose Dery, on May 15, 2017.

Not happy with the repatriation, lawyers for Mr Sivaram filed an application for judicial review by way of certiorari for the order to be nullified by the Accra High Court.

On July 31, 2017, the High Court, presided over by Mr Justice Kweku T. Ackah-Boafo, quashed the order on the basis that the Interior Minister exceeded his jurisdiction when he determined that the Indian had engaged in fraud by presenting a fake marriage certificate.

Based on the court’s decision, Mr Sivaram flew back into the country on August 2, 2017 but was detained at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) by GIS officials.

His lawyers went back to the High Court and the court, on August 4, 2017, ordered his immediate release.

According to the court, the GIS had not charged the businessman with any offence to warrant his detention.

Mandamus application

Mr Sivaram’s lawyers then initiated another legal case by filing a mandamus application at the High Court to compel the GIS to restore his residence and work permits, which had been cancelled by the service following his repatriation on June 1, 2017.

He wanted the High Court to order the GIS to restore his permits on the basis that his repatriation had been quashed by the High Court on July 31, 2017.

On September 18, 2017, the High Court, presided over by Mrs Justice Naa Adoley Azu, ordered the Comptroller-General of the GIS, Mr Kwame Takyi, to restore the businessman’s resident and work permits within seven days.

The court also ordered the GIS boss or any person working under his authority not to make any attempt to repatriate the businessman or “harass him in whatever shape or form’’ prior to the issuance of the permits.

The said permits, valid for two years, were issued by the GIS to the businessman on November 24, 2017.

It was that decision by the High Court that was quashed by the Supreme Court on March 8, 2018 and which facilitated Mr Sivaram’s repatriation last Sunday.