Why are you refusing to obey the orders of the court – SC judges descend on Mahama’s lawyers
The National Democratic Congress Flagbearer’s lawyers reluctance to file their witness statements as directed by the Supreme Court has gotten the judges infuriated.
Lawyers of the petitioner, who were to file their witness statements on January 21 before Tuesday’s hearing had still not filed their document as directed by the court at its last sitting.
Rather, the petitioner had settled to file for a stay of proceedings, to halt the processes of the court till the apex court review its interrogatories ruling not to allow the Electoral Commissioner to answer 12 key questions critical to their case.
On the day the court was expected to start hearing the substantive case, Tsatsu Tsikata, the lead counsel for Mr Mahama was not in court as the huddle of lawyers introduced themselves.
He had been caught in traffic on the day those who matter in Ghana headed to the International Conference Centre in Accra to pay their last respect to the late former President J.J. Rawlings.
But Tony Lithur, who stood in for Mr Tsikata, had a reason for the failure to obey the court’s orders.
According to him, it was because the interrogatories ruling if granted would inform the kind of witness statements they will file.
But the judges would not have any of that.
The seven-member panel presided over by the Chief Justice Anin Yeboah pointed out to the fact that the petitioner’s lawyers filed other processes rather than the one directed by the court.
“You know what you are doing here and you indicated that you have five witnesses so why have you not filed your witness statements,” Justice Getrude Torkonoo queried.
Mr Lithur explained that the processes filed was in relation to the review of the interrogatories ruling, which according to him may change the outcome of their case.
Another justice, Yaw Appau interrupted him, saying, “why not file your witness statements and when the review is granted the rules will now permit you to file supplementary witness statement if you have any”.
“Why are you refusing to obey the orders of the court and meanwhile, you want us to hear your application?,” Justice Appau asked.
The petitioner was directed by the apex court to file their witness statements on January 20, 2021. They, however, failed to do that and filed a stay of proceedings on the ongoing election hearing.
The court is yet to give its ruling on the stay of proceedings and other issues filed by lawyers of 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 Wednesday 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.