A Sekondi High Court, presided over by Justice Dr Richmond Osei Hwere, has disallowed an application by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Jomoro constituency, Dorcas Toffey, to amend an answer in a petition brought against her by one Joshua Emmanuel Kwofie, a resident of Jomoro.
Kwofie is challenging the eligibility of the Legislature to contest the Jomoro Parliamentary seat.
The Court struck out the application on grounds that the Legislator, who is the Applicant/Respondent, had failed to comply with the Court’s earlier order, which directed her to show proof of her renunciation certificate as ordered by the Court on June 22, 2021 ruling.
It would be recalled that on June 22, 2021 Justice Osei Hwere ordered the applicant /respondent to show proof of her renunciation certificate as an Ivorien citizen. She was given ten days to produce the document for inspection at the Court Registry.
The applicant/respondent, acting through her counsel, however, filed for a stay of execution, pending appeal at the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal, however, dismissed the stay of execution on grounds that no serious arguable point of law was demonstrated by the applicant.
Following the dismissal of the stay of execution, the 10-day-order as ordered by the Justice Osei Hwere at the Sekondi High Court for the applicant/respondent to produce a certificate of renunciation still stood.
As a result, hearing notice was served on the applicant/respondent by the Registry for inspection of the renunciation certificate.
The applicant/respondent failed to comply with the order but on August 10, 2021 she filed an application to amend an answer in the petition brought against her.
Ebo Donkor, who held brief for the respondent/applicant’s substantive counsel, in moving the application told the Court that it was within applicant/respondent right to effect amendment to the petition.
He argued that the amendment would bring all matters that were in controversy to a finality. Counsel also contended that the amendment as sought, would not affect the order of the Court.
That apart, it would help expedite trial by the Court considering that it has to do with an election. But Bright Octhere Agyekum, holding brief for Frank Davies as Counsel for the respondent/applicant opposed the application on grounds that the application was targeted at distracting the expeditious disposal of the petition.
Responding to what he described as erroneous impression created by the applicant/Respondent Counsel that it was within his right to amend, Counsel Bright Otchere Agyekum said when pleadings are closed as was in this case, no right is vested in a party to amend pleadings.
He argued that when pleadings are closed, what the other party needed to do was to seek leave of the Court and the Court has discretion to either grant or not.
In so doing, however, applicant seeking favorable exercise of discretion has to come with clean hands, act in good faith and demonstrate and justify why amendment was necessary.
Counsel Otchere Agyekum pointed out that, the amendment was in bad faith and by law, ought to be blackballed considering that non-compliance of the Court order by the applicant/respondent had various consequences including but not limited to committal.
He asked, “How can a party that has failed to comply with an order of the Court, pray the court for a relief. That is the height of acting in bad faith”.
But in his ruling yesterday, Justice Dr. Osei Hwere pointed out that non-compliance of a Court order has various consequences, including but not limited to striking out an application.
In the aforementioned case he said, the respondent/applicant has completely disregarded the Court order to show proof of renunciation certificate.
On the position espoused by applicant/respondent counsel that his client had the right to amend her answer to the petition, the presiding Judge in his ruling responded in an agreement with the petitioner’s counsel that once pleadings were closed, a party seeking to amend must seek leave of Court.
For this reason, rules of Court must be complied to maintain procedural alignment and quoting Order 21 as basis for his ruling.
Justice Osei Hwere pointed out that, not until a party complied with an order, the party may not be allowed to take a further step. Such a move, he said, would undermine a Court system and must be nipped in the bud.
Consequently, he struck out the application with a caveat that the respondent/applicant could reapply after putting their house in other.
In a related development, the same Court has directed parties in the Essikado-Ketan parliamentary election petition to file their witness statement within 21 days simultaneously starting from the day of the order.
The petitioner, Dr. Grace Ayensu Danquah and her counsel were both absent in court yesterday and hearing notice including proceedings of the day have been directed by the Court to be served on them.
A cost of GHC1000.0 was awarded against the petitioner and the 2nd respondent, the Electoral Commission, with the suit adjourned to the January 31, 2022.