Another legal drama is looming after an opposition politician Abu Ramadan fumed that the refusal of the Electoral Commission (EC) to implement a Supreme Court ruling amounts to high crime.
Quoting portions of the Supreme Court judgment, the PNC former Youth Organizer said, Justice Gbadegbe warned that “failure to implement the orders of SC in a constitutional interpretation matter, amounts to High Crime”.
Speaking on Joy FM’s Top Story, Abu Ramadan expressed anger at the reaction of the EC and has vowed to drag all seven Electoral Commissioners to court. Abu Ramadan says the Supreme Court order was clear in its ruling when it concluded that “the current register of voters which contains the names of persons who have not established qualification to be registered is not reasonably accurate or credible.”
Abu Ramadan of the Peoples’ National Convention (PNC) says the Supreme Court was referring to those who registered with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) card deemed an illegal identity to prove Ghanaian citizenship. He said even in court, the judges kept referring to the Supreme Court ruling in May 2015 where it declared that the NHIS card cannot be used to register after the EC had allowed card-holders to do so.
He said the EC in court, said it could identify and remove voters who used the NHIS card to register.
At a meeting with political parties, the EC says the Supreme Court did not order it to delete names of voters who used the NHIS as prove of identity.
“For persons who registered with NHIA cards, such registrations were lawful at the time of registration, and the subsequent declaration of unconstitutionality in the earlier Abu Ramadan case, does not automatically render them void’, the statement from the EC read.
According to the Commission, the Supreme Court’s order does not ask the EC to remove names of voters who used the NHIS card. It, therefore, will not and cannot remove the names of the said persons from the voters register.
However, Mr. Ramadan said the EC has deliberately refused to implement the court order because the apex court was clear. He expressed shock that the Electoral Commission, which includes at least four lawyers should fail to understand the ruling.
“They should even understand the Supreme Court ruling better than I [but] they are more confused,” he said on Joy News’ Top Story.
Abu Ramadan said his lawyers are getting ready to head back to court to also cite the seven commissioners for contempt of court.
“If the court spoke in French, the court can speak in English for them to understand the language” he fumed.
Read full statement from the EC
EC TO IMPLEMENT SUPREME COURT ORDERS
The Electoral Commission and its legal advisers have carefully studied the recent judgment of the Supreme Court on May 5, 2016 in respect of the case of “Abu Ramadan & Evans Nimako vrs The Electoral Commission & The Attorney- General”.
The Commission confirms that it accepts the ruling of the Supreme Court which ordered that:
(a) the Electoral Commission takes steps immediately to delete or as is popularly known ‘clean” the current register of voters to comply with the provisions of the 1992 Constitution, and applicable laws of Ghana;
(b) any person whose name is deleted from the register of voters by the Electoral Commission pursuant to order (a) above be given the opportunity to register under the law.
The Commission is of the view that the directives of the Apex Court are clear and emphasize the processes already laid down in the law for cleaning the voters’ register. The Supreme Court was of the view that these processes are ‘ample and sufficient’ to remove the names of ineligible and deceased persons from the register.
The Supreme Court essentially held as follows:
1. That the Electoral Commission has a duty to compile a credible register, and in so doing, must act within the remits of the Constitution and applicable law.
2. That the existing law has made ample and sufficient provisions for ineligible names to be deleted during the exhibition of the provisional register but such deletions must be in accordance with the applicable law;
3. For persons who registered with NHIA cards, such registrations were lawful at the time of registration, and the subsequent declaration of unconstitutionality in the earlier Abu Ramadan case, does not automatically render them void’. Such a position according to the Supreme Court, “would have the effect of disenfranchising the persons affected. Such registrations should only be deleted by means of processes established under the law”.
4. The process of validation proposed by the petitioners is without statutory authority and in “carrying out its functions, the Electoral Commission cannot employ non-statutory remedies”.
Further, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the following reliefs requested by the Petitioners:
1. That the current register of voters is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect;
2. That the Electoral Commission be compelled to compile a fresh Register of voters;
3. That the Electoral Commission be compelled (as an alternative to compiling a new register), to audit the current Register of voters through validation of the registration of each person currently on the register (as defined by the petitioners).
The Judgment of the Supreme Court affirms the Commission’s consistent position on the status of the current Voters’ register and the mechanisms for cleaning it, to make it acceptable to all stakeholders. The EC remains willing and committed to ensuring a clean register prior to the elections in accordance with the law.
However, the Commission wishes to remind the public that all stakeholders in the political process have a key duty to support and work with the Commission in ensuring a cleaner and more credible register.
As unanimously agreed by all the political stakeholders at an earlier Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting in March this year, the mechanisms outlined by the Commission for cleaning the register are Inclusive, Collaborative, Legal and Transparent.
It must be noted that the EC by itself, has no power under any law currently in force, to unilaterally delete the names of persons from the register.
For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state that under the existing and applicable law, where a person’s registration is challenged during a registration process, that challenge must be referred to a District Registration Review Committee (DRRC) for determination.
The EC is only permitted to act on the decision of the DRRC following the determination of the challenge to delete or maintain the name of the challenged person on the register.
Similarly, for persons who are already on the Provisional Register, the law requires that an objection is made during the exhibition process either by a registered voter or an official of the Commission. These objections are then referred to the District Registration Review Officer (DRRO) for determination. The Commission is required by the law to act on the decision of the DRRO following determination of the objection.
As an institution that derives its existence from the law, the Electoral Commission cannot be seen to be acting arbitrarily. We are delighted that the Supreme Court agrees with us on this position. In complying with the directives of the Apex Court, the Commission intends to fully follow the applicable law.
The Commission is urging all stakeholders in the political process to join us in working to ensure a cleaner register ahead of this year’s election. Finally, the Commission looks forward to working with all citizens of Ghana towards ensuring a peaceful, transparent, trusted, independent and world- class electoral process. Thank you.