The Accra Fast Track High Court yesterday restrained the Committee for Joint Action (CJA), or any other organisation, from going on a procession between March 5 and 15, 2007 in celebration of Ghana's 50th Independence anniversary.
In its ruling on the matter, the court further ordered that it would be illegal for any person or persons acting under the banner of the CJA or any other organisation to organise and undertake any activity or procession in celebration of the anniversary within the period without the express permission in writing to the police.
The order lapses on March 15, 2007 unless it is set aside or extended by the court.
The court, presided over by Mr Justice P. Baffoe-Bonnie, a Court of Appeal judge sitting as a High Court judge, gave the order after the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) had filed an ex-parte motion for an order of interim injunction to restrain the holding of a procession on March 6, 2007 by the CJA.
According to the court, “it arrived at the conclusion cognisant of the fact that in times of necessity, the interest of the nation should override individual rights or parochial interests”.
The action was sent to the court under Section 1 of the Public Order Law, Act 491, and moved by ACOP K.K. Amoah, counsel for the IGP.
An affidavit in support of the motion, which was deposed by the Accra Regional Police Commander, Mr Douglas Akrofi Asiedu, said on February 6, 2007, the police received a written notification from the CJA to hold a people's procession through the principal streets of Accra to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence.
It said because of the anniversary, a number of Heads of State, VIPs and other visitors would join Ghanaians to celebrate the occasion and for that reason almost every policeman had been assigned a special duty before and after March 6, 2007 throughout the country.
Consequently, that had made it impossible to organise officers and men to provide the needed security for those who intended to go on the procession. That national concern was conveyed to the organisers by a letter dated February 14, 2007.
The affidavit said the committee, after receiving the letter, replied that it was unable to postpone the event to two weeks as requested by the police and that there could not be any lawful obstacle to the organisation of the procession on March 6, 2007.
It said although the organisers had insisted on holding the procession, their own safety, as well as that of members of the public, could not be guaranteed and that unless restrained from doing so, the procession could create an ungovernable situation which was likely to lead to disorder and insecurity.
Moreover, it said, the Public Order Act and security in Accra and other places would be greatly threatened if the procession took place and added that intelligence reports indicated that other groups opposed to the procession could confront the CJA and that was likely to disturb public order.
ACOP Amoah told the court that the organisers had to be stopped, whether their motive was peaceful or not, because most of the time that was not the case, since people infiltrated their camp and caused havoc.
He said the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, which was the final convergence point of the procession, was very close to the Independence Square where a National Parade would take place.
Asked by the court why the police did not seek redress from the court at a much earlier date, counsel responded that they were trying to dialogue, especially when the fundamental human rights of the CJA were concerned.
The court said the police were trying to sneak behind the CJA to seek its order and that the ex-parte application should be used as a shield and not as a sword.
In his ruling, the judge said he was a bit uneasy that the application had been brought ex-parte, saying it was clear some days ago that the police had been aware that the organisers were not going to comply with the order.
He said activities for the celebration of the Jubilee had been planned to span the whole year and took judicial notice of the fact that there was no doubt about the heavy burden on the police on March 6, 2007.
The judge cited Article 21 (1) of the 1992 Constitution which touched on the freedom of assembly and procession and the Public Order Act which gave meaning to the article in the Constitution.
He said the fact that the police had emphasised their inability to ensure the safety and welfare of the participants of the procession, as well as other members of the society, meant that the application ought to be granted.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the CJA confirmed to the Daily Graphic that the committee was going to court today to seek a review of the court's decision.
It described the grounds for the application by the IGP as bogus and without merit and insisted on getting the court's approval to hold the procession on March 6, 2007.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central and leading member of the CJA, Mr Mahama Ayariga, told Daily Graphic that the ground that there would not be enough policemen to safeguard the welfare of the marchers and the public was untenable.
According to him, if anything at all, the CJA should have been asked to change its route but to debar it from holding the procession was not proper.
“There is no reason doing that, looking at the route, so they should have asked us to change the route but telling us not to hold the procession is not right,” he said.
Story by Stephen Sah