IMANI, ASEPA thrown out – Court says they are not neutral
A seven-member panel of the Supreme Court, presided over by the Chief Justice Anin Yeboah, has unanimously dismissed an application filed by three Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to be allowed to join a case as friends of the court (amicus curiae).
The CSOs – IMANI Ghana, Conservative Policy Research Centre and Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA) – filed the amicus application to join the case against the Electoral Commission (EC) in the compilation of a new voter register.
The groups, in their brief, were seeking the Apex Court to exercise its jurisdiction to restrain the EC from undertaking its intended purpose of compiling a new register, as it was a waste of scarce resources.
Joe Aboagye Debrah, lawyer for the groups, moved the application, but while in his 10-minute submission, was questioned by the bench whether they were joining the court as friends or to assist one party in the case.
Lawyer Debrah was put on the carpet by the justices, as to whether he had taken time off to read the two cases pending before the Superior Court, but he responded in the negative and added that he had sighted the some affidavits.
He said the request by a person who is not a party to a case to be allowed to join it must demonstrate expertise or provide knowledge that will have a bearing on the case.
The Chief Justice then asked how he could then conclude he can add something new to the court if he had not read the writ.
But Mr Debrah responded that the group was made up of citizens of Ghana who will be affected by the decision of the court.
However, the EC, in response, filed an affidavit in opposition to indicate that the groups have not drawn the court’s attention to any law or decision that appears to have been overlooked by the parties in the case.
The EC, through it legal representative, Justin Avenovor, said the groups failed to demonstrate any expertise in law, and the application also lacked merit, regarding the matter pending before the court.
A member of the panel, Justice Baffoe Bonnie, on his part, said the court was aware of the position taken by the CSOs on the matter, adding that the process filed does not show they were joining the court as friends to offer their assistance, but to support one side.
His Lordship stated that the groups had already taken their stern position on the matter, and as a result, they were not neutral, urging that they could have joined the suit as an interested party instead.
The panel disagreed with the view of the groups in reference to the Abu Ramdan case on the EC’s eligibility to compile a new voter register, and that the law only allows the Commission to conduct periodic reviews.
This, the lords explained that in the case of Abu Ramadan, an individual cannot compel the EC to compile a fresh register, and that responsibility lies with the Commission.
Deputy Attorney General (A-G) Godfred Dame also opposed the application and appealed to the court to dismiss it.
The court dismissed the application for lacking merit.
The Chief Executive Officer of the IMANI Center for Policy and Education, Franklin Cudjoe, while granting an interview to the media after the application was struck out, said he thought his lordships would have benefitted greatly from it.
“The lords have spoken and we can’t quarrel with that, we just have to live with it. But I hope that the decision they arrive at eventually would be a decision that everyone can live with, otherwise, I am just disappointed. I think my colleagues here are disappointed.
“This was an introduction to how cases end up in court…at some point, I was laughing all through, but I guess lawyers know their trade, and judges also know their trade. So we cannot fault them,” he added.
He said the judges’ suggestion that the amicus was not neutral, to him, was a bit farfetched.
The suggestion that the group should have joined the case, according to him, was well taken, and asked what that means for an amicus, adding, “in other jurisdictions people file amicus cases and take positions.
“We do have an interest in the matter, and I suspect that that is why we actually decided to file brief, but to suggest that the brief was not neutral, I do not understand that language. I think they probably did not read anything, but, anyway, they made their decision, so we have to live with that.”
He added that he would keep on speaking on these matters which are critical to public policies.