The Accra Fast Track High Court yesterday fixed April 26, 2007, to give judgement in the contempt case filed by a former Deputy Director of Operations of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), Mr Kojo Hodare-Okae, against the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Joe Ghartey.
The court, presided over by Mr Justice P. Baffoe-Bonnie, a Court of Appeal judge with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, fixed the date after listening to submissions made by Mr Akoto Ampaw, counsel for the plaintiff/applicant, and Mr Ghartey, who acted as his own counsel.
The applicant's motion is seeking to cite the A-G for contempt for failing to comply with the court's earlier judgement of May 27, 2005, that he should be reinstated in the Public Service where the President so desires, provided the applicant suffered no loss of salary or allowances he received as Deputy Director of the GIS.
The order was to take effect from September 2003 when his appointment was terminated up to the date of judgement when he is to be restored to the government payroll.
Joined to the suit was the Minister of the Interior, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, as well as the GIS.
An affidavit in support of the applicant's motion said on September 5, 2002, he received a letter signed by Dr Kwame Addo Kufuor, then Minister of the Interior, informing him that he had been transferred from the GIS to the Free Zones Board (FZB).
It said the applicant later realised that his transfer was a hoax, since the FZB had no role for him to play. He, therefore, refused to accept his posting.
According to the affidavit, the applicant, in view of the frustrations he went through because the FZB had refused to accept him, petitioned various high government officials to intervene on his behalf but to no avail, compelling him to resort to the law to seek redress.
Consequently, he filed a writ against the A-G, the Interior Minister and the GIS, saying that his transfer amounted to a dismissal and, therefore, wrongful.
He sought his reinstatement and restoration of all his salaries and entitlements from the time of his transfer to the time of the writ, among other reliefs, and upon which the court granted the reliefs and awarded damages.
Arguing the motion, Mr Akoto Ampaw said after the court judgement, they thought that the matter could be resolved amicably. Therefore, they approached the defendants without using the coercive powers of the court and wrote a letter dated April 10, 2006 to the A-G.
“Portions of the letter showed that we have been having several discussions with the A-G,” counsel said, and added that the letter was written pursuant to the discussions in the hope that the issue could be resolved.
Counsel said it had never been their position to battle the government but wanted the applicant reinstated.
However, the A-G kept giving promises to comply with the court order, adding that “the A-G gave the impression that he was amenable to this and we have been particularly urging him on all this while”.
According to Mr Akoto Ampaw, the entry of judgement was made on March 3, 2006 and served on the A-G on April 4, 2006 to enable him to take the necessary steps to have the applicant reinstated.
Counsel agreed with the court when the judge said that the A-G, as the principal legal advisor of the President, was not his representative and could only give advice which the President was not bound by.
Mr Ghartey described the application as totally misplaced and flawed because it attacked his person and not his office and that the applicant had not been able to prove that he disobeyed the court's order.
“Contempt is quasi-criminal whose punishment is either a fine or imprisonment and, therefore, the applicant must prove a prima facie case of contempt,” he said.
According to him, the first hurdle which had to be cleared by the applicant was whether the person in court was the one the order was made against, since the order for reinstatement was not made against the A-G but the President.
Mr Ghartey further said until the time that the applicant was to be reinstated, he had not served the A-G with a certificate of judgement to enable him to advise the President; therefore, the President was incapable of reinstating him under Article 119 of the Constitution.
He said if it was entitlement that the applicant was looking for, then the best place for that was the Controller and Accountant-General, since the A-G was not responsible for that.
Story by Stephen Sah