General News of Monday, 29 August 2016
The three contemnors enjoying the air of freedom following a presidential intervention may be heading back to prison if a case challenging the president’s power of remission is upheld.
A private legal practitioner Mr. Alfred Tuah Yeboah told Joy News he is not only seeking an interpretation of Article 72 which formed the basis of the presidential remission but he is also seeking consequential orders, which if granted, will have Salifu Maase, Alistair Nelson and Godwin Ako-Gunn return to finish their four month jail term.
The three contemnors who are sympathisers of the governing National Democratic Congress served just a month of the jail term and were pardoned by president who acted on the advice of the Council of State.
They were convicted for scandalising the court and bringing the name of the court into disrepute. The three, had taken turns on an Accra based radio station Montie FM, with a threat to kill judges who sat on a case brought against the Electoral Commission.
They also threatened to rape the Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood if the judges gave a judgement which was not in the favour of the EC.
Their comments were roundly condemned and later hauled before the Supreme Court judges to explain why they should not be found guilty for contempt.
They pleaded guilty to the charge of contempt and were handed a four month jail term as well as a fine of GHC10,000.00.
Whilst serving their term, supporters of the governing party, ministers of state began a petition signing campaign to have the president activate his powers of mercy under Article 72 and have the four month sentence of the contemnors remitted.
The president acceded to the call of the petitioners and granted remission of sentence.
Mr. Alfred Tuah Yeboah believes the president’s decision may be unconstitutional and wants the Supreme Court judges to have a final say on the matter.
He dismissed assertions that the judges are interested parties in the matter and may give a prejudiced verdict. He said even if someone sues the Chief Justice, she still has the power under the law to empanel the judges to sit on her case.
Reacting to the substantive matter, the private legal practitioner said even if the president has power under Article 72 to take the decision he took, the same constitution under Article 296 prescribed how the president ought to have exercised that power of discretion.
The article states (a) that discretionary power shall be deemed to imply a duty to be fair and candid; (b) the exercise of the discretionary power shall not be arbitrary, capricious or biased wither by resentment, prejudice or personal dislike and shall be in accordance with due process of law.
He does not believe the president followed due process in arriving at the decision to grant remission to the Montie 3.
He argued further that he will be seeking an interpretation from the judges whether there is a difference between criminal contempt and other offences prosecutable by the Attorney General.
If there is a difference, he believed the president would have erred in activating his powers of mercy under Article 72 which ordinarily applies only for offences under the criminal code and prosecutable by the Attorney General.
But another lawyer Victor Adawudu insists the president did not err in taking the decision he took.
He stated that the constitution gave powers and different functions to all the three arms of government.
The judges performed their function and the president has done same, Victor Adawudu maintained.
He added the president consulted the Council of State as stipulated under Article 72 and did act whimsically.