File witness statements or have case dismissed – Chief Justice orders election petitioner
The Supreme Court has given lawyers of the National Democratic Congress Flagbearer another opportunity to file its witness statements or risk having its case dismissed.
But before that order, the court warned the petitioners that it would have no choice but to throw out their case if they continue to disrespect its orders.
This followed the petitioner’s failure to adhere to the court’s order to file their witness statement by January 21.
Rather, the petitioners’ legal team, led by Tsatsu Tsikata, filed a stay of proceedings as they seek to tie the court’s hand until it deals with its review application on its ruling on the interrogatories.
But showing what could be described as a human face, the court ordered the petitioners back to its January 21 in which it instructed that they file their witness statements.
Per the new order, the lawyers are to file their witness statements by close of day on Wednesday, January 27, 2021, or risk having their case thrown out.
“The business of conducting this petition will be done in an orderly and expeditious manner and as procedurally directed by C.I. 99. It is clear that whatever issue that may arise from the interrogatories filed by the petitioner can be incorporated in the due conduct of the trial.
“We do not appreciate the fact that the current processes filed should make room for the petitioners to ignoring the prior orders of the court. To the extent that the earlier order has not been complied with.
“The petitioner is referred to the following rules of the court. Rule 69 C4b of the Supreme Court rule as amended by C.I 99 which reads that the court may dismiss the petition when the petitioner fails to file the processes directed within the specified time.
“The court will determine the petition when the respondents fail to file their answers or the processes regarding their answer within the specified time,” the CJ said.
The apex court’s directive comes after lawyers for the petitioner failed to comply with the order to file their witness statements as announced by the court on January 20, 2021.
They, however, resorted to filing a stay of proceedings on the ongoing election hearing.
But after a legal banter between one of petitioner’s lawyer Tony Lithur and the bench, the petitioner’s legal team finally agreed to file their witness statements.
The lead Counsel Tsatsu Tsikata assured the apex court that they would act according to the directives and file their witness statements.
The court is yet to give its ruling on the stay of proceedings and other substantive issues filed by the petitioner John Mahama.
The stay of proceedings comes after the apex court dismissed an application that sought to order the Electoral Commissioner to specifically respond to questions regarding anomalies that characterised the December 7, 2020, elections.
In a unanimous decision, on the preliminary issue, the apex court presided over by Chief Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah said the court rules had been amended with respect to interrogatories.
Interrogatories are a formal set of written questions propounded by one litigant and required to be answered by the opposing party or parties in order to clarify matters of fact and help to determine in advance what facts will be presented at any trial in the case.
The Chief Justice said the new regime did not afford the court the laxity of time to respond to allow such questions to be answered before the trial begins.
The court explained that “reference was made to the 2013 [presidential election] petition in which an application for interrogatories was granted by the Supreme Court.
“However, subsequent to 2013, several statutory amendments have been made by C.I. 99 of 2016 which has restricted the practice and procedure of this court as regards Election Petition.
“Indeed, Rule 69 of the Supreme Court amendment in C.I. 99 directs the expeditious disposal of petitions and sets timelines for this court to dispose off the petition. The amendments provide us [court] with new procedural regime and strict timelines.
“We are strictly bound to comply with C.I. 90 and therefore we will not apply Order 22 of C.I. 45 of 2004 in this circumstances. We, accordingly, refuse to grant the application and same is accordingly dismissed,” the court said.
It was the case of the apex court that the petitioners simply wanted to delay the process.
The dissatisfied Mahama team filed a review on Wednesday but the court declined to rule on it but said it would incorporate it decision in its final judgement.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on January 20, 2021, announced the roadmap for the election petition hearing that will determine if President Nana Akufo-Addo was duly elected.
In setting out the timeliness, it said it would not tolerate time-wasting as it took a cue from the 2012 election petition which travelled for more than eight months.
The roadmap announced will see parties making their case to determine if indeed there were some anomalies with the results that saw the NPP presidential candidate emerging winner of the 2020 polls.