An Accra High Court has for the second time, dismissed the Speaker of Parliament’s letter urging respect for MP privileges in the prosecution of Mahama Ayariga.
Justice Afia Serwah Asare Botwe stressed, the rules of her court are entirely within her discretion and shall not be dictated by an MP’s privileges.
She quoted Justice Adinyira in the Ex-Parte Francis case of “conducting the business of the court as though it is secondary to that of counsel or anyone else for that matter, within the confines of the proper exercise of judicial discretion.”
The Judge and the Speaker have been engaged in letter-writing exchanges since the MP abandoned Parliament to attend to a criminal case against him.
Mahama Ayariga had earlier engaged in letter writing himself insisting, he won’t appear before the court – a stance which was reversed as the judge gave him a 1pm deadline to show up in her court.
Photo: Mahama Ayariga [on the phone] leaving Parliament to court on June 4
The Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye, sent his certificate, ruling that at that time the Member had not been served a criminal summons from the court.
He asked that the scheduling of Mahama Ayariga’s trial be done without conflicting his Parliamentary duties.
He pointed to several provisions in the 1992 constitution, Article 117, 118 and 122, which all border on privileges and Contempt of Parliament, to make his case.
But the judge remained unmoved. She ruled on the Speaker’s seven-page letter that the bedrock of Prof. Mike Oquaye’s argument, Article 118, does not apply to the accused Mahama Ayariga.
That Article says “neither the Speaker, nor a member of, nor the Clerk to, Parliament shall be compelled, while attending Parliament to appear as a witness in any court or place out of Parliament.”
Undeterred, the Speaker of Parliament wrote again essentially rehashing his earlier argument, a style largely adopted by the judge in her second reply.
She only added that the court will ensure a speedy trial like it does for every other person.
Photo: Judge Afia Serwah Asare Botwe
READ JUDGE’S SECOND RESPONSE
I shall conclude this ruling by making a comment on a letter addressed to the registrar for the court authored by the Rt. Honourable Speaker of Parliament on the availability of A1 (Mahama Ayariga) to stand trial. I shall not go into any great detail regarding this letter save to say that the concerns therein contained are very well noted.
However, in the ruling of this court dated 4th June, 2019, in the case of the Republic v Hajia Ninchema and 6 ORS this court made a pronouncement on whether or not the speaker’s certificate issued on 4th of June 2019 would be binding on this court given the fact that the 1st accused is not being compelled to appear as a witness but as an accused person. Those remarks still hold valid as there is no such need perceived, save to state that in considering how this case will be managed and the trial conducted going forward, the following will be the guiding principles;
A. An accused person has the right to a speedy trial.
“... while appreciating the very important duty these most respected lawyers are engaged in as legislators, that there will be no situation, to borrow the words of Justice Adinyira in the Ex-Parte Francis case of “conducting the business of the court as though it is secondary to that of counsel or anyone else for that matter, within the confines of the proper exercise of judicial discretion The court will *be sure to deliver on its mandate to preside over this trial (like all others before it) in a fashion that would terminate it timeously.
B. ... Adjournments are largely within the discretion of the court and applications should be considered with the primary objective of ensuring a speedy hearing and determination, presiding judge has to have control over his court
Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe (MRS)
Justice of the High Court