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Supreme Court overrules objection to order EC Chair to testify

BY: Kweku Zurek
Supreme Court overrules objection to order EC Chair to testify
Supreme Court overrules objection to order EC Chair to testify

The Supreme Court has overruled the objection raised by the counsel of the petitioner to order the Chairperson of Electoral Commission to mount the witness box in the ongoing 2020 President Election Petition.

The seven-member panel of the Supreme Court in its ruling Thursday morning [February 11, 2021] said it was not convinced by the arguments of the counsel of the petitioner, Mr Tsatsu Tsikata.

"We are minded to state that our jurisdiction invoked in this Election Petition is a limited jurisdiction, clearly circumscribed by law," the court said in the ruling read by the Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah.

"We do not intend to extend our mandate beyond what the law requires of us in such petitions brought under Article 64 (1), challenging the validity of the election of a President.

"Simply put, we are not convinced and will not yield to the invitation being extended to us by counsel for the petitioner to order the respondents to enter the witness box to be cross-examined. Accordingly, we hereby overrule the objection raised by counsel for the petitioner against the decision of the respondents declining to adduce evidence in this petition".

The court premised its ruling on Order 38 Rule 3 E(5) of the High Court Civil Procedure Amendment Rule (C.I 87).

Objection

Mr Tsikata had on Monday objected to an application by the respondents - the Electoral Commission and President Nana Akufo-Addo not to call any witnesses.

The counsels for the respondents informed the court that they would not adduce any evidence to challenge the petition and so the apex court should determine the petition on its merit and the testimony adduced by the three witnesses for former President Mahama.

According to them, the court rules allowed a defendant to elect or choose to adduce evidence, but they had decided not to exercise that right and would, therefore, not call any witness to adduce evidence.

The petitioner, they argued, should rejoice and be excited that his petition would be determined on its merit, without any input from witnesses who would have presented contrary evidence challenging the petition.

However, Mr Tsikata argued that the EC had already decided to call a witness when it filed its witness statement.

In view of that, he argued that Mrs Mensa could not evade or be shielded from cross-examination.

Also, it was his case that as the Chairperson of the EC, Mrs Mensa had a constitutional duty to account to the people of Ghana and how she discharged her duties during the 2020 elections, especially those in contention in the petition.

“She wants to shield herself from accountability by not submitting herself to cross-examination. She must account for that public duty and the best forum to do that is the Supreme Court,” Mr Tsikata added.

Subpoena

Meanwhile, counsel for the petitioner has informed the court that he intends to re-open the case and apply for a subpoena to get the EC Chair into the witness box.

The petitioner also intends to apply for a review of the decision of the court to overrule its objection urging the court to compel the respondents (EC and President Akufo-Addo) to call their witnesses to testify.

"My Lords, we are applying to re-open our case, because we closed our case on the basis of the indications of the witnesses that will be heard... and on that basis we will be issuing a subpoena addressed to the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana and we believe that those processes are necessary processes that would have to be heard and determined in this case.

"We also intend subject to receiving a copy of the ruling that you delivered this morning, we also intend to apply for a review of that ruling...".