Former President John Dramani Mahama’s decision to remit the four-month prison sentence imposed on the infamous Montie trio was lawful, the Supreme Court has declared.
In a 5-2 majority decision yesterday, the court dismissed a legal action challenging the remission that allowed the three convicts — Salifu Maase, aka Mugabe; Alistair Tairo Nelson and Godwin Ako Gunn — to spend only one month out of the four-month imprisonment that the Supreme Court slapped on them for contempt of court.
In its judgement dismissing the legal action, the court held that the President’s power to remit convictions covered those related to contempt of court.
“The remission cannot be questioned, as it followed due process. All the three actions challenging it are, therefore, dismissed,’’ the court held.
The justices who agreed with the majority decision were Justices Sophia Adinyera, Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Anthony A. Benin, Yaw Appau and Gabriel Pwamang, while Justices Jones Dotse and Anin Yeboah dissented.
Although the majority and the two dissenting decisions were ready, the court did not read them due to the number of cases pending before it. Rather, it said the decisions would be deposited at the court’s registry.
Montie trio saga
Maase, a radio show host; Ako-Gunn and Nelson, two panellists, were sentenced to four months’ imprisonment each by the Supreme Court on July 27, 2016 for scandalising the court.
They were also fined GH¢10,000 each.
The two panellists, spurred on by Maase, threatened the lives of judges of the Superior Courts, especially those who had heard the case on the credibility of the country’s electoral roll filed by Abu Ramadan and Evans Nimako against the Electoral Commission (EC).
They were found guilty of scandalising the court, defying and lowering its authority and bringing its name into disrepute.
The Directors of Network Broadcasting Company Limited (NBCL), operators of Montie FM, the radio station where the comments were made, and ZeZe Media, owners of the station frequency, were also fined GH¢30,000 each.
Petition and remission
But the imprisonment of the Montie trio was met with dissent from the then governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) and its followers, including some ministers of state.
They described the sentence as “harsh” and signed a petition pleading with the President to exercise presidential pardon for the three under Article 72 of the 1992 Constitution.
Former President Mahama acceded to the demands of the petitioners and, on August 26, 2016, remitted the convicts’ sentences from four months to one month, which they had served.
Shortly after the remission, three persons — Nana Asante Bediatuo, the Executive Secretary to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; Mr Elikplim Agbemava and Mr Alfred Tuah-Yeboah — initiated different legal actions challenging it.
The Supreme Court consolidated the three suits in 2017.
The plaintiffs argued that upon a true and proper construction of articles 14 (1)(b), 19 (12), 72 (1) and (3), 125 (1) and (3), 126 (2) and 127 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, the purported grant of a remission of the punishment of four months imposed on Mugabe, Nelson and Gunn was in excess of the powers conferred on the President of Ghana by Article 72 (1) of the Constitution, an unjustified interference with the independence of the Judiciary and thus an affront to the Constitution.
They, accordingly, sought an order declaring as null, void and of no legal effect the grant of a remission by the former President of the punishment of four months imposed on the three convicts.