Thursday, June 20, 2024

Jean Mensa won’t testify – Supreme Court rules

The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Mrs Jean Adukwei Mensa, cannot be compelled to testify in the 2020 presidential election petition filed by former President John Dramani Mahama, the Supreme Court has ruled.

This means the EC Chairperson will not mount the witness box to be cross-examined in the petition in which Mr Mahama, the presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the December 2020 elections, is challenging the declaration by her that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), won the presidential poll.

In a unanimous ruling yesterday, the apex court held that the rules of court and decided cases did not give it the power to order parties to call witnesses to adduce evidence if they (parties) chose not to do so.

“The law is, therefore, settled that a party will not be comepelled to enter the witness box and testify in support of his or her own case,” the court held.

The court, accordingly, overruled an objection by the lawyer for the petitioner, Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, challenging the decision by the respondents (the EC and President Akufo-Addo) not to call any witness.

Apart from the EC Chairperson, the expected witness for the second respondent (President Akufo-Addo), Mr Peter Mac Manu, who was the Campaign Manager of the NPP in Election 2020, will also not be cross-examined by Mr Tsikata.

The unanimous decision by the seven-member panel of the apex court was read by the Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah.

The court premised its ruling on Order 38 Rule 3E of the High Court (Civil Procedure) (Amendment) Rules, 2014 (C.I. 87), which deals with the use of witness statements in civil trial, and many decided cases that reinforce the legal maxim that a party is free to either call or not call witnesses to advance its case.

Import of decision

Per the decision, the court has accepted the invitation by the EC and President Akufo-Addo to determine the petition on its merits.

This means the two respondents have taken the risk that they will not adduce any evidence through witnesses who could have presented evidence contrary to what former President Mahama has put before the court through his three witnesses who testified.

The NDC flagbearer John Dramani Mahama petitioned the Supreme Court to order a second round of the December 7, election. According to him, the votes obtained by NPP’s candidate, President Nana Akufo-Addo, and himself in the December 7, election as declared by the EC Chair were not enough for a candidate to be declared the winner.

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