Zanetor’s application did not warrant SC intervention – Justice Yeboah
Anin Yeboah JSC, a justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana has stated categorically that the instant application brought before the Supreme Court by Dr. Zanetor Rawlings to invoke the court’s supervisory jurisdiction is frivolous and unmeritorious one which did not merit the intervention of the highest court of the land.
‘When the main thrust of the high court action was not a question of enforcement or interpretation or both, the question of interpretation, if it arose, was ancillary to the determination of the claims of the parties’, he said.
‘The proper procedure was for a suit to be filed at a court or tribunal which had jurisdiction over the claims of the parties, and if that court in the course of determining the case took the view that the said issue was one of interpretation, that court will refer the issue to the Supreme Court according to article 130(2) of the 1992 constitution’, he added.
The 4-1 majority ruling in favour of an application brought before the Supreme Court by lawyers for Dr. Zanetor Agyeman – Rawlings was given on Thursday May 19 2016 in which the panel led by Justice William Atuguba stayed proceedings in the high court case against the candidature of Dr. Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings pending the interpretation of article 94(1)(a) of the 1992 constitution on June 2 2016.
But reading his dissenting opinion during the ruling in which Justice Anin Yeboah described his lone stance as a ‘solitary path’, the justice of the supreme court said ‘even though in the high court references were made to the constitution of the NDC, the constitution of the NDC cannot be read in isolation from article 94 of the 1992 constitution which any candidate for parliamentary election must strictly satisfy’.
The said article 94(1)(a), Justice Anin Yeboah contended, ‘is devoid of any ambiguity in anyway whatsoever. The Article 94(1) states, ‘SUBJECT TO THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ARTICLE, a person shall not be qualified to be a member of parliament unless he is a citizen of Ghana, has attained the age of 21 years and is a registered voter’
‘On my part’, he continued, ‘I find no ambiguity in this provision which counsel for the applicant Zanetor Agyeman – Rawlings urges forcefully that the high court judge Justice T. Ackaah – Boafo interpreted wrongly and therefore usurped the powers of the Supreme Court or which warrant the interpretation of the Supreme Court’.
Dr. Zanetor Agyeman – Rawlings invoked the supervisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to: 1. Have a 22nd march 2016 decision by Justice Kwaku T. Ackaah-Boafo quashed for wrongfully assuming jurisdiction to interpprete and define the scope of application of article 94(1)a of the 1992 constitution 2.An order to restrain justice kwaku T. Ackaah – Boafo from proceeding to hear the case against her in the high court pending a decision on the instant application in the Supreme Court.
The grounds on which these reliefs were sought by Zanetor in the Supreme Court were that; The learned judge erred in law when he assumed jurisdiction to interpret article 94(1) of the constitution holding that once the applicant had put herself out as a contestant in the parliamentary primaries of the NDC she was caught by article 94(1)(a) which requires that she must be a registered voter at the time of her participation in the primaries.
And that the learned judge erred when he wrongly assumed jurisdiction when the cause of action had not accrued.
However, Justice Anim Yeboah who dismissed the claims of Dr. Zanetor Rawlings said, ‘In my opinion, the high court judge by referring to article 94(1)(a) of the 1992 constitution does not amount to interpretation of the provisions of the constitution and the high court did not usurp the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
He pointed out in his ruling that, ‘it must be made clear that the qualification to be a MP under this constitution is provided by article 94 of the constitution and the candidature of every prospective parliamentarian must certainly satisfy the provisions of article 94 of the constitution’.
‘In this application, if one carefully considers the reliefs sought by the first interested party at the high court, it becomes abundantly clear that the court was never called upon to interpret article 94(1)(a) of the constitution.
A mere reference to a provision of the constitution for a court lower than the Supreme Court to consider will not amount to interpretation as envisaged under articles 2(1) and 130(1) of the 1992 constitution which reserves for the exclusive jurisdiction of supreme court, if it comes to the interpretation of any provisions in the constitution’.
He continued, ‘this special jurisdiction was not meant to usurp or replace the jurisdiction of the lower courts’.
on the second relief sought by Dr. Zanetor Rawlings, Justice Anin Yeboah equally dismissed it saying, ‘I have struggled to find out whether there was any dissipation of our exclusive jurisdiction, and I have found none. The high court judge was merely applying the provision of article 94(1)a of the constitution and no more’.
‘On the grounds of lack of jurisdiction’, he continued, ‘I think the Applicant has not satisfied this court that the high court judge committed any jurisdictional error to warrant the intervention of the Supreme Court. It has been pointed out that this supervisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over lower courts which Zanetor Agyeman – Rawlings sought to invoke can only be invoked if there is patent error and when the grounds for doing so exists. I am of the opinion that there is no material before us to show any want of jurisdiction by the high court. I will therefore proceed to dismiss the application on this ground’.
The other four Justices of the Supreme Court including the Rawlings-appointed William Atuguba JSC, upheld the instant application of Zanetor Agyeman – Rawlings saying the high court judge had wrongfully assumed jurisdiction to interpret Article 94(1) of the 1992 constitution which amounted to a usurpation of the powers of the Supreme Court. The majority therefore chose to invoke their supervisory jurisdiction to interpret Article 94(1) on June 2 2016. The other justices who formed part of the majority 4-1 ruling included Mahama -appointed Yaw Apau JSC, Gabriel Pwamang JSC, and Anthony Benin JSC.