There were hot exchanges between lawyers for the Electoral Commission (EC) and the flag-bearer of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) at an Accra High Court, yesterday over his disqualification from the December polls.
The oral submission from both parties degenerated into fireworks as each counsel tried to prove his superiority over the other.
The exchanges started when Mr. Ayikoi Otoo counsel for the applicant, re-echoed an earlier instruction from the judge asking counsel for the EC, Thaddeus Sori, to resume his seat, when Mr. Otoo was on his feet making a submission.
Mr. Otoo remarked that Mr. Sori was his junior at the Bar, and ordered,
“Sit down, you are my junior”.
Mr. Sori, who took an exception to the remark, rebutted that Mr. Otoo, should refer to those who follow him and carry his books as juniors, and not he (Thaddeus) on the other side representing the respondent in the matter.
“You cannot shout at me to sit down, and I am not your junior. When I stand here, your juniors are those who carry your books to follow you,” Mr. Sori replied.
It took the intervention of the judge, Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, who urged both lawyers to be mindful of their language, to cool tempers at the court.
At a point, the judge threatened to adjourn the case should both parties refuse to heed his orders, and further prevailed on Mr. Sori to resume his seat.
The drama was not limited to the courtroom where supporters of PPP intermittently passed uninvited comments, as a large crowd of party supporters clad in red and white outside the courtroom chanted and drummed.
At a point, Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, who was at the court, had to go out to address the crowd, trying to calm them. After the sitting, the supporters marched on to the party headquarters at Asylum Down to meet the executives.
Earlier, when Mr. Otoo responded to preliminary legal objections raised by counsel for the EC that the applicant should have gone to the court by way of petition, as stated in Sub Regulation 5 of Regulation 9 of C I 94.
The other legal objections were that even, if they had gone to the court by a petition, the action would have been premature; adding that the irregularity on their motion was incompetent and a breach of Order 55, rule 4 of the High Court Civil Procedure Rules.
In a rebuttal, Mr. Otoo said Mr. Sori’s argument was a complete misapprehension and misunderstanding of the laws, arguing that election petitions were filed only after an election.
He added that pursuant to a ruling of the Supreme Court; it was no longer possible for a litigant to be defeated by mere technicalities.
According to him, the substance of the matter was that the EC had breached the rules of natural justice pursuant to Regulation 9 of CI 94, which averred that the EC and its returning officers for the 2016 Presidential Election were under a legal obligation to, before the close of nominations, afford the persons with errors on their form an opportunity to make any necessary amendments or alterations.
He prayed the court to quash and prohibit the Commission from proceeding with balloting for presidential candidates, since it failed to abide by the required procedure.
He further argued that the EC did not have any nomination period in the guidelines for the elections, but only showed when interested people could go for forms, and never stipulated when nomination closed.
Mr. Otoo added that all the actions of the EC were to benefit from their own wrongdoing, but rather apportioned the blame to the applicant for not submitting his form early.
Mr. Sori, who opposed to Mr. Otoo’s submission, said Regulation 9 of CI 94 dealt with nomination of candidates and should be read in its entirety, but not portions. He said the reason why it stated petition as a way of seeking redress was to prevent the stopping of the whole calendar of the EC by such writs.
He said certiorari and prohibition which the applicant sought to invoke could only be done when a statutory body had acted in excess of its powers, arguing that balloting for positions, which Dr. Nduom was praying the court to prevent was not above the powers of the EC.
Responding to the arguments from Mr. Otoo that there was no nomination period, he said that could not be true, because it had September 8 to 30 as nomination period.
He added that Regulation 7 Sub Regulation 2(d) indicated that the nomination form of each candidate shouldl be received by the Commission on a day appointed as a nomination day.
Mr. Sori said the argument that the applicant should have been afforded an opportunity to amend errors on his form, could not be accepted, because errors by form, which constituted omissions, among others, might be corrected but not an error in substance, where one person had used different signatures in two districts to endorse the applicant.
He added that Dr. Nduom was given a hearing after the form was rejected, during which he requested to correct the error.
Mr. Sori further added that Article 46 of the Constitution stipulated that the Commission was not amenable to orders of any other body, and that should the court grant the relief of the applicant, there would not be any automatic acceptance.
The Candidate would be required to satisfy the laid down procedures, before being accepted.
Article 46 avers that: “Except as provided in this Constitution or in any other law not inconsistent with this Constitution, in the performance of its functions, the Electoral Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority”.
Consequently, the court, presided over by Mr.Justice Baffour adjourned the case to Friday, October 28, for his judgement on the matter.
Addressing the media after proceedings, Mr. Otoo stated that they would got to the Supreme Court should the court refuse to grant their reliefs.
By Edem Mensah-Tsotorme