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Court rules on Asutifi South suit

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The Electoral Commission can now go ahead to declare the winner for the December 7, 2008, parliamentary elections held at Asutifi South.

This follows a unanimous Supreme Court judgment that quashed the ruling of the Sunyani High Court which upheld a petition that sought to restrain the declaration of the winner of the Asutifi South parliamentary election.

The Supreme Court also prohibited His Lordship, Justice Francis Opoku of the Sunyani High Court from further hearing the case.

According to the Supreme Court, until the 21 days provided for a person in an electoral dispute to seek legal redress elapses, one cannot take any legal action. The panel made up of Justices William Atuguba, Sophia Akuffo, Date-Bah, Rose Owusu and Baffoe Bonnie, were therefore of the opinion that the parliamentary candidate of the New Patriotic Party, Yiadom Boakye-Boateng brought the legal action before the 21 days could elapse.

Following an earlier Sunyani High Court’s decision in the matter, Collins Dauda, NDC candidate and now Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, filed an application for an order of certiorari praying the Supreme Court to quash the decision of the High Court to hear the petition which sought to restrain the EC from embarking on its constitutional mandate.

At the last hearing, Samuel Codjoe, counsel for Mr. Dauda, argued that the High Court judge erred and exceeded his jurisdiction when, on his own, he amended Section 18 (2) of PNDC Law 284 by ruling that the payment of a deposit was not necessary for a petition to be heard.

Section 18 (2) of PNDC Law 284 states that “the presentation of an election petition under subsection (1) shall not be valid unless, within the time specified in subsection (1), the petitioner gives ¢20,000 as security for costs”.

Section 18 (1) of the law states that “an election petition shall be presented within twenty-one days after the date of the publication in the Gazette of the result of the election to which it relates, except that a petition questioning an election on an allegation of corrupt practices and specifically alleging a payment of money or to have been made by the person whose election is questioned or to have been made on his behalf to his knowledge, may be presented within twenty-one days after the date of the alleged payment”.

According to him, the ruling by the court was improper and ought to be quashed by the highest court of the land.

Mr Codjoe said Mr. Boakye-Boateng should have waited for the election results to be published in the Gazette before commencing the action at the court, as contained in Section 18 (1) of PNDC Law 284.

Opposing the application, counsel for the respondent, Captain Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey (rtd), told the court that the law allowed his counsel to be heard before the 21-day period, especially when there was an allegation of corrupt practice.

According to him, the NPP”s polling agent was the first to sign the results but that paper disappeared. He argued that his client’s case had been properly laid before the Sunyani High Court.

Replying, counsel for the EC, James Quarshie-Idun, told the court that the EC filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal challenging the High Court”s ruling, as well as an application for stay of proceedings at the High Court.

He said the position of the EC was that it should be allowed to complete its work before petitions were filed. According to him, the Court of Appeal had since adjourned the case sine die awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court.

A Principal State-Attorney, Sylvia Edusu, who represented the Attorney-General on behalf of the EC, said the Attorney-General was not opposed to the application for an order of certiorari to quash the lower court’s ruling.

After the Supreme Court’s judgment yesterday, Mr. Dauda expressed satisfaction with the outcome stating that “the people of Asutifi South are now going to have a representation in Parliament”.

By Statesman

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