General News of Friday, 12 July 2019
An Accra High Court has cleared the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Mrs. Jean Mensa, and six other officials of the commission of contempt of court.
Some Ghanaians in the diaspora had cited the EC officials for contempt insisting that the commission had deliberately failed to adhere to the orders of another court to implement the Representation of People Amendment Act (ROPAA).
Dr. Kofi Boateng, Agyenim Boateng, Nellie Kemevor, Obed Danquah and Christian Sillim wanted the court to punish the officials for their failure to see to the implementation of the Act which gives Ghanaians leaving abroad the right to vote in national elections and referenda.
An Accra High Court (Human Rights Division) on December 17, 2017, ordered the EC to activate the process that would enable Ghanaians living abroad to vote in the country’s elections.
The court said within 12 calendar months – beginning from January 1, 2018 – the EC should lay before Parliament the modalities for the implementation of the ROPAA Act so that Ghanaian citizens living abroad can take part in election 2020.
The court also ordered that should they fail to implement the Act as directed, it should publish the reason it could not do the implementation.
The 12-month period given by the court ended on December 31, 2019, but the EC could not implement the Act and subsequently filed a motion pleading for an extension of time to do so.
The plaintiff then headed to court through their lawyer, Sampson Lardy Anyenini, alleging that “the EC failed, refused or neglected to respect and comply” with the orders of the court.
“The first respondent (the EC) and its commissioners have, with impunity, continued their contemptuous acts of not complying with the said judgement and its specific orders directed at them personally, even though the time for complying has elapsed,” they averred.
According to the five applicants, the only way to ensure that the EC complied with the court orders was for Mrs. Mensa and the other commissioners to be “committed to prison for contempt”.
In her affidavit in opposition, the EC Boss denied claims by the applicants arguing that she was not the Chairperson of the EC at the time the court gave the orders in December 2017 and that since her appointment, she had taken steps to implement the orders of the court.
“Having been seized with the orders of the court after my appointment in July 2018, and ensuring that steps are taken in complying with the orders of the court, I, through my lawyers, filed for an extension of time within which the operationalisation of Act 699 would take place.
“I deny that in the performance of my official duties as the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana; I have acted willfully with the view to bringing the administration of justice into disrepute or disregard,” she averred.
The court, in its ruling, dismissed the application but refused the EC’s request to award cost against the applicants.
Meanwhile, an Accra High Court has granted a request by the EC to give it another 12 calendar months to implement the Act.