Former President John Mahama has said: “If Deputy Speakers, because they are Members of Parliament, can vote while presiding as Speaker, they could as well be able to participate in any debate on the floor over which they are presiding”.
“This is the absurdity into which the Supreme Court ruling leads us”, Mr Mahama tweeted on social media on Thursday, 10 March 2022.
Earlier in a Facebook post, he had described the Supreme Court ruling as “shocking but not surprising”.
According to Mr Mahama, the ruling of the Supreme Court is “an unfortunate interpretation for convenience that sets a dangerous precedent of judicial interference in Parliamentary procedure for the future.”
His view dovetails into the position of the Minority in parliament who have also described the ruling as a judicial interference in a time-tested parliamentary practice and established conventions.
Speaking to the media, Minority leader Haruna Iddrisu noted: “Everywhere in the world, in civilised democracies, including the United Kingdom, the presiding officer’s vote is discounted, so, it’s not for nothing that Article 102 provides that ‘A person presiding shall have no original nor casting vote’.”
In his view, the Supreme Court ruling is just a “judicial support for e-levy and nothing more, judicial support for a struggling economy in distress and a judicial support for the restoration of a matter that they have said is constitutional; it’s repugnant to the provisions of Articles 102 and 104”.
Despite acknowledging that the Supreme Court has the mandate to interpret the law, Mr Iddrisu maintained “this is a travesty of parliamentary justice and a stab in the growth and development of multiparty constitutional democracy built on the spirit of checks and balances…”
A lawyer, who is also a law lecturer, Justice Abdulai, petitioned the apex court to declare as unconstitutional, First Deputy Speaker Joseph Osei-Owusu’s action of counting himself as one of the MPs on the floor even while presiding over the proceedings of the house in relation to the formation of a quorum for the passage of the 2022 budget which had earlier been rejected and thrown out by the minority side.
Justice Abdulai was of the view that once a deputy speaker, who is an MP presides in the stead of the Speaker, he loses his right to vote.
In a unanimous decision, the apex court, presided over by a seven-member panel led by Justice Jones Dotse held that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 103 and 104 of the 1992 Constitution, a Deputy Speaker, who is a Member of Parliament, does not lose his right to take part in decision-making in parliament.
The Supreme Court’s ruling effectively means either of the two deputy Speakers can vote while presiding over the house.
On the same subject, President Nana Akufo-Addo also reacted saying he was so surprised that so much energy had been “wasted” on the debate about whether or not Deputy Speakers of Parliament could vote on the floor of the House when presiding over a matter, since, in his view, that debate was unnecessary, as the 1992 Constitution clearly provides for it.
The President told Daily Guide’s Charles Takyi-Boadu on the sidelines of the Expo 2022 in Dubai on Thursday, 10 March 2022: “Firstly, the noise that was generated over this at the time, I was extremely surprised because as far as I can see it – and I think the Supreme Court has confirmed it – the matters involved in this thing are open and sharp; they are black and white”.
“There can be no dispute about the issues that the gentleman took to the Supreme Court”, he asserted, arguing: “It is there for anybody who wants to see in Articles 102, 104 of the Constitution” which “make it absolutely clear, in black and white that the Deputy Speakers – I’m not speaking of the Speaker; I mean the Deputy Speaker – when they are presiding, have the right to participate in the vote of the parliament”.
In the President’s opinion, “the whole structure of the Constitution and, indeed – and I believe that being part of the reason of the court, all the legislatures of the world where the presiding person is a member of the legislature, like our Deputy Speakers are, like the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the United States or the President of the Senate in the United States or the Speaker of the British Parliament; all of those have the right to speak because they are members of the Assembly”.
https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?height=314&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fnakufoaddo%2Fvideos%2F349691920503942%2F&show_text=false&width=560&t=0 Unlike the Deputy Speakers, however, the President noted: “Our Speaker is expressly not a member of the Assembly that’s why he doesn’t have the right to vote”.
In fact, he indicated, “he’s a referee; making sure that the debate is conducted properly and the rules of procedure and the orders of the house are complied with; that’s his role – in all strictness speaking, not to be part of the proceedings of the house”.
“That is not the case with the Deputy Speakers and that matter is transparent on the face of our Constitution”, he stressed.
Indeed, the President added, “even the presiding members of our district assemblies have the right to vote – look at the District Assemblies Law –because they are members of the Assembly and once you are a member of the Assembly, you are representing certain constituencies. If you are denied the right to vote, it’s tantamount to denying the right of the people you represent to have a say in the decision of the Assembly. That will not be right”. “So, I don’t understand what this furore and controversy that was artificially-generated [was all about]”, the President said.
In response to the criticism by Mr Mahama and the Minority that the ruling amounts to judicial interference in the work of parliament, Mr Akufo-Addo said: “I’m not quite sure that the people who are saying this have actually taken the time to read the Constitution of our country; it says so in black and white”.
He said the work of the Supreme Court, as far as interpreting the Constitution is concerned, is part of the checks and balances instituted to ensure power is not saturated in one arm of government.
“The legislative power of the state that is vested in parliament is subject to the provisions of the Constitution. All organs of the Ghanaians state, including me, as head of the executive, are subject to the teachings of the Constitution”, the President argued. “There’s nobody in the Ghanaian state that is above the fundamental law of the land. It will lead to the very matter that we have striven, for so long, to avoid – the concentration of unregulated power in our state. We don’t want that. We’ve had that experience before and we brought about this Constitution in order not to allow that to reoccur, so, I’m astonished about how much public energy has been wasted – and I say so with the greatest of respect – in an area on an issue where there’s so much clarity and I’m happy that the court – and, as far as you’re aware, the Supreme Court, when it is declaring the meaning of the Constitution and it does so unanimously, that is the most emphatic way which the court can pronounce”.
The President urged all Ghanaians to put the matter “behind us” and move on now that the apex court has spoken.
“I believe with the decision from the judges, the unanimous decision declaring what the constitutional position is; at least, we have an opportunity now to put this matter to rest and continue with the work of our parliament and the work of the ordering of our state”.
“To suggest that somehow rather that parliament is beyond the scrutiny of the Supreme Court with an issue of interpretation is to suggest that parliament is a law on itself. The whole principle of judicial review was developed by the judges, both in America and in England to be able to check the activities of parliament”, he noted
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