It appears agents of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) are dangling clouds of doubt over the Supreme Court Judges handling the 2020 election petition, virtually questioning their impartiality even before the trial of the substantive case.
This is because two members of NDC’s legal team Dr. Abdul Baasit Aziz Bamba and Abraham Amaliba have complained about what they described as the absence of senior Judges on the panel of judges for the election petition.
Chief Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah last week empanelled a seven-member panel of Judges for the 2020 presidential election petition filed at the Supreme Court by former president John Dramani Mahama.
The panel chaired by the Chief Justice himself, has Justices Yaw Appau, Samuel Marful Sau, Nene Amegatcher, Prof. Ashie Kotey, Mariama Owusu and Gertrude Torkonoo as other members.
However, speaking on JoyNews, Dr. Bamba said Mr Mahama’s legal team deserves to know why the Chief Justice decided to empanel seven Judges instead of nine as happened in the 2012 election petition.
He further claimed that the composition of the Judges was unfair and unbalanced.
Dr Bamba stated that the Judges of the apex Court as empanelled by the Chief Justice were mainly appointed by New Patriotic Party (NPP) governments.
This, in his view, may affect their neutrality in a case that involved the 2nd Respondent who stood for the 2020 general election on the ticket of the NPP.
According to him, it would have been better if other experienced Judges at the Apex Court had been placed on the panel, even though he failed to mention specific Justices.
However, a spokesperson of the President’s legal team, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah disagreed with the attacks on the panel.
He said Dr. Bamba’s assertion was bogus and only geared at embarrassing the Judges.
The other member of NDC legal team, Abraham Amaliba served notice that the party will call for a change in the composition of the panel that will hear the substantive matters in the election petition.
Mr Amaliba, who is the Director of Legal Affairs of the NDC, said the exercise of the discretion by the Chief Justice to put together the seven-member panel was exercised wrongly.
He lamented what he labeled as the biased and inexperienced nature of the panel.
“There are some experienced Judges who should have been part of this team. Justice Dotse, Justice Baffoe Bonnie should have been part of this because they were part of the 2012 election petition and their experiences would be key to the determination of this matter.
“This is not a panel that will sit on the case. This is a panel that will determine the application. We cannot question that directly. I told you that it is the right of the Chief Justice to empanel but that right of the Chief Justice can be questioned. We would want the panel to reflect a balanced panel,” Mr Amaliba told Citi FM.
Some political analysts have described the claims by the NDC legal team as part of an orchestrated plan by the main opposition party to attack the integrity of the Supreme Court Judges even before the trial of the case.
It would be recalled that Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, the Chief Whip for the NDC caucus in Parliament, recently alleged that a Supreme Court Judge called a female MP from their side to vote for NPP’s candidate for Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Oquaye instead of the current Speaker Alban Bagbin, in return for some material rewards.
The NDC Chief Whip has not been able to name the said Judge and this has led to speculation that the allegation by the Asawase MP and other issues being raised by the party’s legal team were only meant to question the impartiality of all the Supreme Court Judges ahead of the trial of the election petition.
Meanwhile, the Court has begun hearing the matter brought before it has set tomorrow January 19, 2021 for pre-trial.
Mr. Mahama has filed the petition asking the apex court to annul the 2020 election results and order a run-off between himself and President Nana Akufo-Addo who was declared the winner by the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Mrs Jean Mensa.
The EC and President Akufo are the 1st and 2nd Respondents respectively in the case.
Lawyers for both respondents have since filed their responses to the petition.
They contend that the petition does not disclose any attack on the validity of the election held in 38,622 polling stations and the over 300 centres for special voting across the country.
Accordingly, the lawyers for the Respondents have served notice they would be raising preliminary objection for the Supreme Court to summarily dismiss the petition.