Friday, 24 May 2013
GHANA: RESPECT THE JUDGES
By Winston Tamakloe
Counsel for President John Mahama, Tony Lithur yesterday vehemently appealed to the bench to advise counsel for the petitioners, Philip Addison to show some modicum of respect to the nine-member panel of Judges, hearing the 2012 presidential election petition.
This was after he (Philip) had engaged in hot exchanges with the presiding judge of the nine-member panel, Justice William Atuguba, during the re-examination of the key witness and second petitioner, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia.
“Show some respect to the bench, counsel”, Mr. Lithur told Mr. Addison, after he refused to present a document to the court to be labelled as a rejected exhibit.
Mr. Lithur after the hot exchanges between Mr. Addison and Justice Atuguba informed the court that the petitioners were refusing to present the document, for it to be rejected.
It all began when after recess, the court over ruled an objection by 5-4 majority, the attempt by Mr. Addison to get Dr. Bawumia to clear allegations of miscategorisation such as mislabelling, after that opportunity was denied him, according to Mr. Addison, during the cross-examination by Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata.
Justice Sule Gbadegbe, Justice Sophia Adinyira, Justice Atuguba and Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo dissented.
Mr. Addison then proceeded to ask his client which polling stations had been moved from one category to another and showed him a list they wanted to tender.
Counsel for the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Tsatsu Tsikata objected and indicated to the court that the list had no exhibit numbers and that it had been smuggled and was not part of the list used during the cross-examination, an assertion Mr. Lithur corroborated.
Mr. Lithur added that “it this is admitted we cannot find its counterpart, as we need to know which exhibit they are tendering”.
The court ruled to sustain the objection and he (Addison) questioned what that meant. Justice Atuguba told him the ruling had overruled an earlier ruling.
At that juncture, he prayed the court to grant him leave, to enable him come back today, with a properly labelled exhibit.
He argued that, “it is in the interest of Justice to be granted the leave to come back today with a properly labelled exhibit”.
Justice Atuguba told him that since he had taken a bad gamble he could not continue today, to which Mr. Addison replied, “I have been denied justice through the back door”.
The answer was not pleasant to the bench so Justice Atuguba cautioned that he does not take orders from the bar and Mr. Addison could not dictate to him.
Mr. Addison indicated that he was not dictating to the bench but was praying the court to allow him to continue his re-examination today.“The court is curtailing my re-examination”, he said.
A number of over ruling of objections and sustaining objections characterised the re-examination of Dr. Bawumia rendering him inactive in the witness box.
Attempts by his counsel to question him to clarify answers on cross-examination by the respondents were objected on grounds that there were no ambiguities in the answers given and did not warrant re-examination.
The respondents indicated to the court that documents that the petitioners wanted to tender were already part of the record and kept on objecting to the scope of the re-examination.
According to Mr. Lithur, “re-examination arises when there is a new matter”. But Mr. Addison questioned whether it was an attempt to rehash matters.
Mr. Addison then quoted portions of the Evidence Act and cited local and foreign authority to buttress his ascertain that he could re-examine his client for clarification.
Justice Atuguba upheld the objection, explaining that “the pleadings is already part of the court proceedings and the tendering is out of place”.
Mr. Lithur objected to the witness analysis when his counsel attempted to tender it and said they are trying to clean up the table and this is not a matter he can use in re-examination. It’s a wrong timing”.
Mr. Tsikata agreed to his assertion and said, “we have no opportunity to cross-examine him and it is too late to tender it now”.
The court overruled the objection of the respondents when Mr. Addison referred the court to post proceedings where his client was prevented by counsel for the respondent during their cross-examination from explaining by the usage of the analysis.
When Dr. Bawumia wanted to tender the CD-ROM version of the 704 polling stations, Mr. Lithur objected and said the respondent did not know what it contained and could not be ascertained.
But Mr. Addison said they were using it to assist the court which the court agreed since it was in evidence.
The decision was not acceptable to Mr. Tsikata who said, “a hard copy is sufficient for the court. Tendering a CD-ROM will raise ‘collateral issues’ about authenticity of the evidence”.
The court overruled an objection in respect of the category section of list the petitioners wanted to tender, but Mr. Addison informed the court that it was the same list and that if there were any typographical errors to which they objection, it would be corrected later.
The court by a 6-3 majority decision sustained an objection by the respondents, that there was no ambiguity to a question on the core issue of the credibility of the witness and bad faith.
Mr. Tsikata objected when Mr. Addison wanted his client to make some changes on the categorization of some of the polling stations as a result of quality control and further scrutiny.
He insisted that his client sought to refresh his memory about allegations of mis-categorisation such as mislabeling but that his client was denied during cost-examination by counsel for the third respondent.
Mr. Lithur contended that “categorization is so essential, if they amend it now it will completely change the face of the case” and prayed the court to reject the assertion.
Mr. Addison maintained that the petitioners were not changing their case since the violations, irregularities and malpractices were on the face of the pink sheets.
Counsel for the respondents argued that issues of methodology was irrelevant to re-examination but should have been in the witness evidence-in-chief, and that the time had expired for Mr. Addison make his client to confirm that no double counting was done.
The petitioners, the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the December 2012 election, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, his running mate, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, and the chairman of the NPP, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey are challenging the result of the 2012 presidential election in which the Electoral Commission (EC) declared President John Mahama the winner.
They are contending that ‘gross and widespread irregularities’ took place in the 11,916 polling stations.
The petitioners are, therefore, calling for the annulment of 4,670,504 votes cast in the 11,916 polling stations.
But the respondent, President Mahama, the Electoral Commission (EC) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) first, second and third respectively, have denied any wrongdoing, and are of the view that the polls were free, fair and transparent and for that reason, results were credible and accurate.
The nine-member panel of judges hearing the case is presided over by Justice William Atugubah.
The other members are Justices Julius Ansah, Mrs. Sophia Adinyira, Ms. Rose Owusu, Jones Dotse, Annin Yeboah, Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, N. S. Gbadegbe and Mrs Vida Akoto-Bamfo.