Plaintiff: Supreme Court ruling on Deputy Speakers won’t promote national interest

Justice Abdulai who sent the matter to the court said the ruling does not allow the two Deputy Speakers to promote the national interest when presiding

Justice Abdulai, a law lecturer at the University of Professional Studies (UPSA) has described the Supreme Court’s  declaration that the two Deputy Speakers of Parliament can vote while presiding as a move to promote partisanship.

Justice Abdulai who sent the matter to the apex court said the ruling does not allow the two Deputy Speakers to promote the national interest when it comes to taking decision on critical issues.

Talking to Kwaku Nhyira-Addo on The Asaase Breakfast Show on Thursday (10 March), Abdulai said, “If the Deputy Speaker is not neutral and can vote it does not further national interest. It rather promotes partisanship.”

“I have my own difficulties with the decision that the Supreme Court has presented because …how can the referee also be a player?”

Abdulai added: “I have always believed that our constitution needs several amendments. This is one of the few things the main political parties agree on.”

The UPSA law lecturer, however, served notice he will apply for a review of the Supreme Court’s ruling if the need arises.

The ruling

A seven-member Supreme Court panel, presided over by Justice Jones Victor Mawulorm Dotse, has by unanimous decision declared that the two Deputy Speakers of Parliament remain Members of Parliament when they are presiding and that they can vote and be counted as present for purposes of decision-making in the House.

The Supreme Court ruled that Order 109 (3) of the Standing Orders of Parliament, which state that “a Deputy Speaker or any other member presiding shall not retain his original vote while presiding”, is unconstitutional and same is struck out as unconstitutional.

Apart from the presiding judge, Justice Jones Dotse, the other members of the panel were Justices Nene Amegatcher, Professor Nii Ashie Kotey, Mariama Owusu, Avril Lovelace Johnson, Clemence Honyenuga and Yonni Kulendi.

Travesty of justice

The Minority Leader in Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu, has described the Supreme Court’s declaration as a travesty of justice relating to parliamentary practice.

“Our attention has been drawn to a very disappointing ruling of the Supreme Court of Ghana which more or less amounts to a judicial interference in time-tested parliamentary practice and established conventions,” Iddrisu told journalists in Parliament on Wednesday (9 March).

Haruna Iddrisu (NDC), Minority Leader
Haruna Iddrisu

“Everywhere in the world in civilised democracies, including the United Kingdom, the presiding officer’s vote is discounted, so it is not for nothing that Article 102 provides that a person presiding shall have no original nor casting vote.

“The Supreme Court to put it aptly, this ruling is judicial support for E-Levy, for a struggling economy in distress, and judicial support for the restoration of a matter they have said is constitutional, it is repugnant but what can we do. This is a travesty of parliamentary justice,” he declared.

I’ve been vindicated – Joe Wise

The First Deputy Speaker of ParliamentJoseph Osei-Owusu, says he has been vindicated by the ruling of the Supreme Court on whether presiding Deputy Speakers have voting rights and can form a quorum.

The MP for Bekwai said the ability of presiding Deputy Speakers to form a quorum has always been a legal provision, but had never been activated in previous parliaments because of the clear difference in the past between the the two main political parties.

First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei-Owusu
First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei-Owusu

Engaging the press in Parliament after the ruling, Osei-Owusu said: “I’m glad that the decision practically affirms the position I took. There’s still some misrepresentation as to whether I participated in the vote itself on the night of 30 January; that, I must emphasise, anybody who is in doubt can go back and look at the clip.

“It was a voice vote and I did not participate in the voice vote. But I insisted that I should be counted as a Member of Parliament present to constitute the quorum before the decision was taken.

“Indeed, this decision [the Supreme Court ruling of 9 March affirms that position that I took. I find that very refreshing.

“Matters that have never arisen are now in the fore because of the numbers we have in the chambers, so any time there’s disagreement, as I’ve said already, I’ll interpret the rule and the law as I understand it.

“I encourage people who disagree with me to boldly state their position and, if need be, refer it to the appropriate body [such as] the Supreme Court to guide us.”

Fred Dzakpata

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