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Election 2020 Petition: 42-day timeline is clear in the law, says Oppong Nkrumah

Some lawyers of John Mahama contend that framers of the law did not intend for the Supreme Court to deliver judgment on the 42nd day but rather March

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  • "Why did the NDC count 21 days to file the petition and not 21 working days? Why did the EC and the 2nd Respondent file the answer in 10 days and not 10 working days? The rules of time are quite clear. The reference to working days for CI 99 by the NDC today after court is quite strange and the media should be very wary."

Minister for Information-designate and one of President Akufo-Addo’s spokespersons in the ongoing election 2020 petition case at the Supreme Court, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, says contrary to claims by lawyers of the Petitioner (John Dramani Mahama), Constitutional Instrument (C. I. 99) is clear on when counting of the 42-day strict timeline starts and ends.

Some members of Mahama’s legal team particularly, Dominic Ayine, have suggested that the strict timelines in CI. 99, do not apply in the manner the Supreme Court and lawyers of the Second Respondent (President Akufo-Addo), seek to apply it. It is their contention that the framers of the law did not intend for the court to deliver judgment on the 42nd day but rather per the schedule of the CI 99, the court is expected to adjudicate the petition by the end of March 2021.

However, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah in an interview with journalists after the Supreme Court sitting o 26 January 2021, described the interpretation put on the 42 days set out in CI 99 by the NDC legal team as “most unfortunate.”

“You are beginning to see what we have been talking about that there are efforts to put impediments in the way of this trial. The court we think have been overly magnanimous because ordinarily the rules are clear, if you do this in the district court, they will strike out your matter, in the High Court, they will strike out your matter,” Oppong Nkrumah said.

“For the Presidential election petition, weekend, holiday all count. We didn’t pass this law they did. Even if you decide to take out weekends and public holiday, that is how come you end up in the first week of March. So anyone going around saying it is 90 days, with the greatest of respect, is not reading the law,” Oppong Nkrumah further stated.

On the applicable rules to calculating timelines, Section 44(7) of the Interpretation Act 2009 (ACT 792) states as follows: “Where a period of time prescribed by an enactment for the doing of a thing does not exceed five days, Saturdays, Sundays and pub¬lic holidays shall not be included in the computation of the period.” It therefore stands to reason that the Petitioner did count 21 days to file the petition and not 21 working days when it filed the petition on the 30th of December 2020 after the EC declared the election results on the 9th of December 2020. The EC and the 2nd Respondent also filed their answers in 10 days and not 10 working days and this is because the rules of time are quite clear.

The seven-member Supreme Court panel presided over by Chief Justice Anin Yeboah, has on several occasions observed that it is determined to respect the strict timelines for election petition adjudication as stated in CI 99.

According to the fourth edition of the manual on election adjudication in Ghana, prepared by the Judicial Service which also corroborates the assertion by Mr. Oppong Nkrumah, “Rule 69C(1) of C.I. 74 provides for the hearing of the petition within fifteen days after due service of the petition on the respondent whilst Rule 69C(4) requires the Supreme Court to inquire into and determine the petition expeditiously and shall give its decision not later than fifteen days after examination of witnesses by the opposing party and the Court, if the court is of the opinion that the evidence of the witness is likely to assist the Court to arrive at a just decision”.

“Reading the above provisions conjunctively with the second Schedule to the Supreme Court Rules (C.I. 1 6) as amended by C.I 99, the Court is obliged to comply with the strict timelines set out in the schedule so that on the 42nd day after the filing of the petition, a judgement would have been rendered in the matter,” the Election Adjudication Manual states on page forty-two (42).

Additionally, Section 44(7) of the Interpretation Act 2009 (ACT 792) states as follows: “Where a period of time prescribed by an enactment for the doing of a thing does not exceed five days, Saturdays, Sundays and pub¬lic holidays shall not be included in the computation of the period.” It therefore stands to reason that the Petitioner did count 21 days to file the petition and not 21 working days when it filed the petition on the 30th of December 2020 after the EC declared the election results on the 9th of December 2020. The EC and the 2nd Respondent also filed their answers in 10 days and not 10 working days and this is because the rules of time are quite clear.

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