The hearing of the 2020 Election Petition at the Supreme Court continued today, Tuesday, January 26, 2021, with hearing starting at exactly 9:30 am as scheduled.
Again, the Lead Counsel for the Petitioner, Tsatsu Tsikata, was not in court when hearing commenced, but Tony Lithur stood in and introduced himself followed by Justin Amenuvor with Somuah Asamoah for 1st Respondent; and Akoto Ampaw with Frank Davies, Kwaku Asirifi and Yaw Oppong for 2nd Respondent.
The Petitioner was represented by the National Chairman of the National Democratic Congress, Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo. The 1st Respondent was represented by the Electoral Commission’s Chairperson, Mrs Jean Mensa, whilst 2nd Respondent was represented by 2020 New Patriotic Party Campaign Manager, Peter Mac Manu.
Mr Lithur began by pleading with the court for the matter to be temporarily suspended in order for his colleague Mr Tsikata to come to court.
But, the court in sharp response indicated the official time for hearing was 9:30am and that all processes filed originated from the law firm of Mr Lithur and he has been the one signing all of them, hence he was competent to deal with the matter.
The Panel continued to ask many questions relating to the failure of the Petitioner to obey its orders to file witness statements and a response to the written submissions of the Respondents on the preliminary legal objection.
The following were some of the questions asked and responses from Mr Lithur:
Bench: Your understanding of stay of proceedings is that you don’t file processes ordered by the court?
Mr Lithur: Our application is intended to stay or hold proceedings.
Bench: You say stay means not to file processes but even yesterday, you filed processes so you choose and pick what to file. Let me understand you, by filing stay are you saying you need not file the witness statements and the written submission?
Bench: You filed the petition, you came to this court and submitted your cause of action and reliefs. You said you had five witnesses and we ordered all counsel to file their witness statements, why have you not filed?
Mr Lithur in all these sought to impress on the court that the determination of their review related to the issues and the witness statements, hence their decision not to file but rather file the stay.
Bench: Are you saying that in case the review is refused, you would not file witness statements?
Mr Lithur: We will file without the issues in the application.
Bench: Then why not comply and when it is granted, you file a supplementary. Why are you not obeying the orders of court but you want the court to hear you?
After some few minutes of questions and answers with Mr Lithur, the judges went on recess.
At 10:23 am, the court resumed hearing and the Chief Justice, Anin-Yeboah, who is the presiding judge for the seven-member panel, read a ruling.
The court noted in its ruling that at pre-trial on 20th January 2021, issues were settled and the court gave directives for filing of witness statements and submissions on preliminary legal objection and responses thereof.
The court further stated that while all Respondents complied fully with its orders, the Petitioner failed to do same but rather filed a stay of proceedings.
The court then stated that before it listens to the Petitioner on its interlocutory applications, the Petitioner should comply with its prior orders and whatever issues arise from the hearing of Petitioner’s interlocutory application can be incorporated into the hearing of the matter during trial.
The court strongly criticised the Petitioner for refusing to comply with the orders of the court, yet was seeking audience from the same court. The court then drew Petitioner’s attention to Rule 69(C) (4B) of C.I. 99 which empowered it to dismiss a petition where a party fails to file processes relating to the petition within specified time and how those provisions have been reproduced in C.I. 87 of the High Court.
The court then reissued its directive for the Petitioner to file his witness statements and respond to the Preliminary legal objection by Respondents by close of day Wednesday, 27th January, 2021.
If the Petitioner fails, the court will invoke its powers to dismiss the Petition.
Counsel for the Petitioner, Tsatsu Tsikata, expressed gratitude to the court and the matter was adjourned to Thursday, January 28, 2021.