A member of the panel of Supreme Court Judges who ordered the Electoral Commission to purge the voters’ register of persons who used the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards as a form of identification for their registration has said the court was clear in its ruling.
Speaking to some journalists on Thursday, Justice Jones Dotse stated that “…we [Supreme Court] said the use of the NHIS cards is therefore unconstitutional and it should take the opportunity to clean the register of those undesirable persons.”
He noted that because “we also do not want to disenfranchise anybody so the Supreme Court went on to say that anybody who will be affected by that exercise should be given the opportunity to register according to the law and the constitution, period.”
The EC had insisted that the Supreme Court’s May 5 ruling on the voters’ register did not instruct them to delete the names of those who registered with NHIS cards as proof of identity ahead of the 2016 elections.
They further claimed that after studying the ruling, their understanding does not also suggest the use of any new process to delete the names of those who registered with NHIS cards, other than the existing processes for removing ineligible voters.
But Justice Dotse said the Supreme Court was clear and person’s struggling to understand the ruling “should come back to the court.”
“I don’t want to interpret the judgment but if anyone is aggrieved then they should come back to the court,” he added.
In 2014, former National Youth Organizer of the People’s National Convention (PNC), Abu Ramadan and Evans Nimako won a suit in which the Supreme Court unanimously granted a perpetual injunction restraining the Electoral Commission from using the National Health Insurance Card as an identity card for voter registrations.
The two were seeking true and proper interpretation of Article 42 of the Constitution in relation to the use of the NHIS card as a proof of qualification to register as a voter pursuant to Public Elections.
According to Justice Dotse, “the Supreme Court was quite forthright and clear that the use of the NHIS card is unconstitutional because the criteria for the NHIS card was not based on Ghanaian citizenship but only on residents in Ghana so any foreigner who is resident in Ghana for six months and more can register under the NHIS cards. That was the basis for our decision in 2014.”
May 5 2016 ruling
Following the 2014 ruling that banned the use of the NHIS cards for registration, Abu Ramadan went back to the Supreme Court this year, seeking among other reliefs a declaration that the voters’ register was not credible for the polls in November.
His arguments were that, those who registered with the NHIS card still had their names in the register as well as some minors and other ineligible persons.
But the Supreme Court in its ruling today May 5, instead ordered the deletion of the names of all those who registered with the NHIS cards. It also asked the Electoral Commission to remove the names of all other ineligible persons including the names of deceased persons.
It however said it could not by virtue of the few ineligible names on the register; declare the entire register inappropriate for the elections as the applicants were seeking. It rather asked the EC to take immediate steps to clean the voters’ register.
The court however did not give the EC a specific timeline for the cleaning with barely six months to the polls.
NHIS card holders not automatically void
Meanwhile, a statement signed by Georgina Opoku Amankwaa, a Deputy Chair of the Commission in charge of Corporate Services said they are ready to implement the directives by following existing applicable laws on cleaning the register.
“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.
“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.