Lawyers fear the election petition currently being heard by the Supreme Court may be prolonged due to the sheer volume of documents dropped on the laps of nine Supreme Court justices sitting on the case.
Parties in the landmark election petition challenging the legitimacy of John Dramani Mahama have all filed truck-loads of documentary evidence and witness affidavits.
‘The judges would have to read all the affidavits, the other parties would also have to read all those affidavits. We are not yet at the destination post; we are not yet there at all,’ Bright Akwetey, a lawyer, who contested the presidential election on the ticket of the Convention Peoples’ Party (CPP) told DAILY GUIDE in a telephone conversation on Tuesday.
‘The case is not that easy, it is very complicated…What you are seeing are the beginning of things to come. I know the proceedings would be protracted,’ Mr. Akwetey noted.
Similarly, renowned constitutional lawyer, Ace Ankomah, told DAILY GUIDE that ‘it is a huge task; I have seen pictures of them both petitioners and respondents with pick-up trucks for filing.’
The election petition was filed in December 29, 2012 in the Supreme Court by the flagbearer of the presidential candidate of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and two others.
Since December 2012, the Court has allowed several related interlocutories and applications to be heard before finally settling on April 16 as commencement date for the substantive case.
With the scheduling of proceedings for the substantive case, the court is expected to sit daily to expedite the trial, but lawyers doubt whether daily hearings would substantially fast-track the case, given the huge volume of evidence that the judges would have to sort out.
‘The daily hearings would not in anyway fast-track the ruling because the parties would have to be extremely thorough in trying to prove their case beyond all reasonable doubt.
‘The processes would not be circumvented. You would have to go through the processes so that you don’t gloss over anything,’ Lawyer Akwetey noted.
‘The Supreme Court gave deadlines, but the parties filed a lot of documents,’ Ace Ankomah.
According to the constitutional lawyers, Ghanaians would need to tamper their expectations of a speedy trial and take it in their stride.
‘I think we should manage the expectations of Ghanaians; it would take some time,’ he said.
All About mathematics.
But Kissi Agyebeng, a lecturer at the faculty of law of the University of Ghana, Legon, is a little upbeat about the expedition of the trial.
He thinks the case does not necessarily need to be protracted because the petition is statistically based and should be straight forward to interpret.
‘It shouldn’t be too much of a problem; it will depend on how the case will be presented by the parties; if no one is intentionally going to seek to confuse them, I have been saying this since day one, since the elections ended last year and the petition was filed, I have been saying it is going to be a simple matter of mathematical computation,’ noted Mr. Agyebeng
‘If the math adds up then the petitioners don’t have a case, but if the math add up, then someone should be explaining to Ghanaians why the mathematics don’t add up.’
‘In this era of technological advancement, I don’t think results from 11,000 polling stations should be such a volume that it should unnecessarily lead to a protraction of the trial.’
Live TV as anxiety douser
Perhaps the singular factor that could calm the anxiety of Ghanaians is the fact that the Supreme Court has allowed its proceedings to be broadcast live on free-to-air television for the viewing pleasure of the general public.
‘If that would enhance the transparency, so be it, so at least people who haven’t been to court would see that the atmosphere is such that things go on civilly,’ Bright Akwetey noted.
‘I had a look of the Supreme Court from outside on the television screen and I don’t think it was bad at all… I think it is something we have showcased that we should not be ashamed of,’ Mr. Akwetey told DAILY GUIDE.
Ace Ankomah, who shared similar excitement said, ‘It is a great development in our law, I have always believed in transparency and it includes the people seeing how the courts work,’ he said.
‘They may not understand everything, but everybody would learn and we will all be a better nation.’
Mr. Agyebeng described the live coverage as ‘awesome.’
‘Awesome in the sense that finally, our conservatism is withering down and seeing reason, we have been unnecessarily conservative when it comes to court and court procedures. We have made it so exoteric that the ordinary man can’t relate to it,’ he said.
By Raphael Ofori-Adeniran