Supreme Court’s disqualification of Gyakye Quayson “scandalous”, says Justice Atuguba

Justice Atuguba said he could not fathom why the Supreme Court would adjudicate over a matter that had been decided by the High Court “on merit”

Justice William Atuguba, a former Supreme Court Judge, has described the apex court’s ruling, which disqualified James Gyakye Quayson from contesting in the 2020 parliamentary elections in Assin North as “scandalous”.

“The Supreme Court does not stand in good light in disqualifying Gyakye Quayson despite his clear certificate of renunciation of his Canadian citizenship as from 26 November 2020, whereas the election was on 7 December 2020,” he said.

Justice Atuguba, who retired from the bench in June 2018, made the case when he delivered a public lecture at the Political Science Department, University of Ghana, on Tuesday, on the topic: “Protecting our democracy: the role of the judiciary”.

The Supreme Court on 17 May 2023, ordered Parliament to expunge the name of James Gyakye Quayson from its records as a Member of Parliament for Assin North in the Central Region.

A seven-member panel presided over by Justice Jones Dotse, in a unanimous decision, ruled that the Electoral Commission acted unconstitutionally in allowing him to contest the 2020 parliamentary elections without proof of him renouncing his Canadian citizenship.

Michael Ankomah Nimfah, a resident of Assin Bereku and the Plaintiff, had obtained judgement from the Cape Coast High Court nullifying Quayson’s election because of his alleged Canadian citizenship.

The Electoral Commission consequently organised a by-election in Assin North on 27 June 2023 – and Quayson contested on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress and won.

Justice Atuguba said he could not fathom why the Supreme Court would adjudicate over a matter that had been decided by the High Court “on merit”.

He argued that the certificate of renunciation obtained by Quayson and dated 26 November 2020, was “more important” than his (Quayson) participation in the parliamentary campaigns between 5 and 9 October 2020 when he filed his parliamentary nomination papers with the Electoral Commission.

“If the certificate of renunciation is so mandatory and conclusive, why was it not conclusive in its effect to qualify Gyakye Quayson when he received the dated 26th November 2020 certificate whereas the parliamentary election was held on 7th December 2020?” Justice Atuguba asked.

He added: “It should be noticed that his certificate of citizenship is tied to an oath of allegiance; the two move together…it is difficult to think that Gyakye Quayson, who submitted his renunciation of citizenship papers to Canada in 2019 could still in December 2020 be held as seriously owing allegiance to as a matter of hard realism as opposed to formalism to Canada.”

Justice Atuguba expressed concern over the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and questioned why the Constitution empowered the President to appoint four representatives on the Judiciary Council aside the Attorney General.

“Executive powers of the president and functionalities must be curtailed,” he said.
Justice Atuguba said appointments to the judiciary and other public institutions should be made by independent bodies on merit and should be devoid of “protocol” and “cronyism”.

He said working conditions in the service should also be “reasonably attractive” to encourage workers to give out their best in the discharge of their duty.

Justice Atuguba said public perception about the work of the judiciary is critical to engendering confidence in democracy and urged the courts to be consistent in their judgements in the spirit and letter of the law.

“The duty of the court is to do justice and the court should not be turned away from doing justice,” he said.

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