The Accra High Court has dismissed a contempt application against the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Mrs Jean Adukwei Mensa, and the six other commissioners of the electoral management body.
The contempt application was in relation to the implementation of the Representation of the People Amendment Act (ROPAA), 2006 (Act 699) which gives Ghanaians in the Diaspora the right to vote from abroad.
Five Ghanaians in the diaspora filed the contempt application.
The five – Dr Kofi Boateng, Agyenim Boateng, Nellie Kemevor, Obed Danquah and Christian Sillim – wanted the Accra High Court to commit the EC and its commissioners for contempt for not implementing an order from the High Court that ROPAA should be operationalised within 12 months.
However, the court presided over by Justice Ellen Amoah, dismissed the application Thursday, July 11, 2019.
The ruling was not read in court but the court directed the parties to go for it at the court’s registry.
The court also refused to grant cost as requested by counsel for the EC, Justin Amenuvor.
Lawyer Samson Lardi Ayenini represented the appellants.
In their application for contempt filed on their behalf by their lawyer, the five Ghanaians averred that the EC had “failed, refused or neglected to respect and comply” with the specific orders of the court.
That, they argued, was in spite of numerous letters that they wrote to remind the EC of the impending deadline.
“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’s orders was for Mrs Mensa and the other commissioners to be “committed to prison for contempt”.
“I am not guilty of contempt”
Mrs Mensa, however, refuted claims by the five applicants that she and the EC had acted contemptuously.
In her affidavit in opposition, she contended that she was not the Chairperson of the EC at the time the court gave the order 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 wilfully with the view to bring the administration of justice into disrepute or disregard,” she stated.
The five Ghanaians sued the electoral management body on the basis that it had “gone to sleep” and refused to implement Act 699, 11 years after it was passed.
The “deliberate refusal” or inaction of the EC to implement the act, they argued, had robbed them of the chance to vote in three general elections (2008, 2012 and 2016) and other public elections.
They also contended that it was discriminatory for the EC to continue to register a category of Ghanaian citizens studying abroad or working in Ghana’s missions/embassies abroad to vote in public elections and referenda without including them.
On December 18,2017, the High Court, presided over by Mr Justice Anthony Yeboah, ruled in favour of the five Ghanaians.
The court ordered the EC to operationalise ROPAA by laying before Parliament a Constitutional Instrument (CI) that would set out the modalities for the implementation of the law.
In the event that the EC had any justifiable reason and was “unable to comply with the order”, the court ordered it to publish the justifiable reason(s) 30 days before the expiration of the deadline and also appear before the court to explain the reason(s).
It was the view of the court that the EC was deliberately dragging its feet and had made its mind not to implement Act 699 any time soon.
The court further held that the EC failed to give any cogent reasons for the delay, describing the delay as “grievous, unreasonable and unjustifiable’’.