Court dismisses contempt application against EC Commissioners

Accra- An Accra High Court on Thursday dismissed a contempt application filed 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.

The five Ghanaians in the diaspora, who filed the contempt application are Dr Kofi Boateng, Agyenim Boateng, Nellie Kemevor, Obed Danquah and Christian Sillim.

The applicants wanted the 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, when the case was called on Thursday July 11, the court presided over by Justice Ellen Amoah, dismissed the application.

The court did not read the ruling but directed the parties to go for it at the court’s registry.

It also refused to grant cost as requested by Mr Justin Amenuvor, counsel for the EC.

Mr Samson Lardi Ayenini, who represented the appellants in the application averred that the EC had failed, refused or neglected to respect and comply with the specific orders of the court.

He had argued that in spite of numerous letters that they wrote to remind the EC of the impending deadline, the commission refused to act.

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.

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 EC 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.

Source: Ghana News Agency