Abu Ramadan et al against EC- Lawyer’s perspective
THE C.I 72/NHIS CARD SC SUIT; WHAT HAPPENS ON JULY 30
I was in court the first time the case was called and was present today. I hope by God’s grace to be in court on the final day on Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
I share my ‘small’ personal private professional appreciation of the case.
Three people had filed two separate writs at different times. The Supreme Court brought to their attention at the first hearing that it was best to and did consolidate the two cases because they (Plaintiffs) were all concerned about and asking for the same thing.
The single Plaintiff had made Parliament a Defendant to his suit but had announced to the court he had been unable to serve the process on the Legislature.
The court gave him reason to and he did take cue and moved the court on the first day to remove or struck out Parliament as an unnecessary party wrongly joined to the suit.
THE INTERLOCUTORY INJUNCTION
Plaintiffs Abu and Evans in addition to their writ filed a separate process seeking to obtain an order of the court to stop the EC from going ahead with its advertised ten-day registration exercise which was to commence tomorrow Friday July 25, 2014.
But the court on the 21st of July, 2014 announced that it will not consider that application because it intended to hear arguments for and against the substantive case today and deliver its verdict same but would defer the reasons for a later date.
It could not do this today because among other reasons, issues came up that delayed or dragged today’s process. To be fair to the process, it ordered immediate stoppage of ongoing adverts by the EC and further ordered a suspension of the registration exercise pending the outcome of the substantive suit next Wednesday morning.
THE PLAINTIFFS’ CASE
The three Plaintiffs (Kwesi Danso Acheampong, Abu Ramadam and Evans Nimako) insist, in the main, that use of NHIS ID Card by one to register as a voter (as stipulated in Regulation 1(3) of C.I 72) is inconsistent or in violation of Article 42 of the Constitution.
They argue that Article 42 emphatically requires evidence of Ghanaian citizenship as a first QUALIFICATION to register to vote.
They maintain that unlike Passport, Drivers License and National ID which clearly indicates one’s nationality on the face of the ID, the NHIS ID does not. That, in fact, NHIS IDs are available to citizens and foreigners alike. All a foreigner needs is to have resided in the country for six months to qualify for NHIS ID.
Secondly, that the acceptance of previous Voter IDs especially those issued ahead of 2012 for present registration purposes is superfluous and can potentially lead to one registering twice or more.
THE DEFENDANTS’ CASE
The Defendants (EC and AG) contend that use of NHIS ID is ‘merely for IDENTIFICATION purposes.’ (emphasis mine). The EC in particular argues this is part of a process which ‘includes stages for challenges and verification and ends with the certification and publication of the Voters Register.’
The Plaintiffs’ counter is that one ought not be allowed to hold a voters ID subject to challenge which challenge may be compromised by collusion, intimidation etc especially in a party’s stronghold.
They insist that one even ought not be allowed to attempt to register or be issued a form for registration unless he/she has first met the requirement of proof of citizenship. I am not sure I followed EC Lawyers clearly but I think I heard them argue that claims about use of existing Voters ID Cards are misplaced when a Voters Register is being replaced.
BOTTOM LINE – QUALIFICATION VRS IDENTIFICATION
The case mainly turns on what I find to be the question of qualification versus identification. So if the Supreme Court panel led by the Chief Justice unanimously or by majority take the view that the Article 42 requirement is for proof of QUALIFICATION and not mere IDENTIFICATION plus that the present C.I 72 processes argued by the EC for registration are insufficient or wrong in meeting the eligibility criteria of ‘qualification as a citizen’ to register to vote, then I can expect the court to by way of judicial law-making amend the law (Regulation 1(3) of C.I 72) to remove NHIS ID Cards from the list of ID Cards required for purposes of voter registration.
On the other hand, if it unanimously or by majority take the view that QUALIFICATION is not the first threshold prerequisite and that the claimed IDENTIFICATION is consistent with Article 42 and that so far as it is followed by the various other verification processes is adequate to satisfy the requirements of law and avoid any feared mischief, I can expect a ruling to that effect.
The two Plaintiffs, Abu and Evans, have abandoned a request, that’s if things went in their favour, to the court to have the names of all persons who registered as voters using the NHIS Card removed from the Voters Register.
The court told them it won’t be proper to conduct such an exercise without hearing such persons. I took the added view that such an order might have larger, potentially disastrous far reaching implications if they were to nullify the pre-2012 election status of such persons.
Does effectively declaring them as unqualified to have been registered to vote mean also that their votes shouldn’t count? I can imagine how many people do not have a passport, a drivers’ license, a voters’ or national ID but an NHIS Card.
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