The substantive hearing of the matter of Gideon Tettey Tetteh v the Electoral Commission (of the GIMPA Law Students’ Association) and the Vetting Committee, as well as the matter of Johnson Oduro v The Electoral Commission and the Vetting Committee, has been adjourned until 21st April, 2017.
This was the result of a preliminary objection raised by counsel for the petitioners, Mr. Toni Dovi, against the competence of the court to hear the matter. Citing Article 7(2) of the Law Students’ Association (LSA) Constitution, counsel for the petitioners argued that the present panel, constituting two judges of the Judicial Committee, was improper and in contravention of the express wording of the Constitution, which required that the Judicial Committee be comprised of three judges. He further argued that this provision was so structured to avoid a tie decision between the two judges. He prayed the court to appeal to the LSA President to appoint a temporary third member to the panel, to ensure that the trial moved ahead without delays.
Responding to this, the Chief Justice of the Judicial Committee, Richard Awalime, argued that a true and proper interpretation of the provisions of Article 7(2) did not yield the necessary conclusion that at all times, all members of the Judicial Committee must sit on every case. The provisions of Article 7(2) merely spelt out the composition of the Judicial Committee, and not the composition of the panels that sit on cases. That notwithstanding, the Chief Justice sought to assure all the parties that the panel would be fully constituted as the absent member of the Judicial Committee would be “present from a distance”.
Counsel for Messrs Tetteh and Oduro however expressed dissatisfaction with this highly irregular proposition. At this point, the court took a break to deliberate, after which it delivered its judgment on the preliminary objection.
It was the view of the court that in cases like these, it was important that all of the parties leave the courtroom knowing that justice was not only done, but was seen by all to be manifestly done. Thus, the court upheld the preliminary objection, postponing the trial until 21st April 2017, when the panel could be fully constituted. In between time, all parties, including the disqualified petitioners, could (continue to) campaign.
The court however took the pains to stress that the final judgment will not take into consideration the campaign costs of the petitioners, if they went ahead to campaign before the judgment is delivered. Furthermore, although the court declined the invitation to usurp the powers of the Electoral Commission by fixing a date for the election, it invited the Electoral Commission to review its schedule to accommodate the trial.