The Accra Fast Track High Court has declined jurisdiction to hear the legal suit brought against the Electoral Commission (EC) over the creation of 45 new constituencies, which has generated hue and cry from some political quarters.
Per Article 48(1) of the constitution, “a person aggrieved by a decision of the EC in respect of a boundary demarcation, may appeal to a tribunal consisting of three persons appointed by the Chief Justice, and the EC shall give effect to the decision of the tribunal.”
Guided by constitutional provision, the court presided over by Justice K.A. Ofori-Atta ruled yesterday that the matter, which bothers on constituency boundary demarcation, should be taken to the appropriate forum (Electoral Boundary Dispute Tribunal) for determination.
Two persons, Richard Odum Bortier and Daniel Quaye, mounted a legal action against the EC on May 24, in their capacity as citizens, contending that the current formula and principle being used by the EC in demarcating, reviewing or altering constituency boundaries do not ensure fair representation as required under the constitution.
However before the case could be gone studied, the EC raised red flag on grounds that the case as brought by the plaintiffs related to the interpretation and enforcement of the constitution, hence filed a motion praying the court to stay proceedings and refer the case to the Supreme Court.
Ruling on the motion yesterday, Justice Ofori-Atta held otherwise, noting that the reliefs by the plaintiffs did not raise issues of constitutional interpretation.
Quoting portions of a Supreme Court ruling of February 23, in which the two plaintiffs mounted a similar action against the EC, Justice Ofori-Atta said the case per its reliefs, is one bothering on constituency boundary and not the constitution.
That notwithstanding, he declined jurisdiction on the matter.
Earther the plaintiffs withdrew a contempt action against the Chairman of EC, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, and commissioners of the EC, Amadu Sulley, Kwadwo Sarfo Kantankam Mrs. Pauline Adobea, Ebenezer Aggrey Fynn, Mrs. Rebecca Kabuki Adjafo and Mrs Sa-Adatu Maida.
They were said to have laid before parliament, a Constitutional Instrument (C.I.) dealing with the creation of new constituencies entitled “Representation of People (Parliamentary Constituencies) Instrument 2012” while the action was pending before court.
When the court, presided over by Justice Edward Amoako Asante resumed sitting yesterday after a day’s adjournment, Mr.Ayikoi Otoo, counsel for the plaintiffs who caused the contempt proceedings to be issued against the commissioners announced that his clients were withdrawing the action
That, he explained, was necessitated by the EC’s withdrawal of the said CI from Parliament, noting that “ if they have purged themselves, then we are withdrawing”.
But counsel for the EC, James Quarshie-Idun, said the EC was never in contempt of court, and urged the court to allow the withdrawal subject to cost “else people will be suing by heart”.
Dismissing the action as withdrawn, the court held that though the EC was entitled to cost, it would not award any cost against the plaintiffs since the matter was constitutional in nature.
In the substantive action, the plaintiffs were seeking a declaration that the inherited formula and principles that the EC takes into account in the demarcation, review or alteration of constituency boundaries do not ensure fair representation as enshrined in the constitution.
They were also seeking an order directed against the EC take into account the mandatory provision of Artcle 47 (3) of the constitution in any future demarcation, review or alteration of constituency boundary so as to ensure fair representation as contained in the constitution.
Further, a declaration that the EC’s principle that every district must have a constituency is unwarranted by either the constitution or any other law.