The Centre for Human Rights and Civil Liberties (CHURCIL), a non profit organisation, has petitioned the Chief Justice, Mrs. Georgina Wood, over the delay in setting a date for the hearing of a case it had filed seeking the rights of remand prisoners to vote.
Filed in July this year, the case seek to invoke Article 42 of the Constitution which guarantees the voting rights of all Ghanaians.
Article 42, stipulates that “Every citizen of Ghana of eighteen years of age or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public election and referenda.”
However, currently in Ghana, prisoners both on remand and convicted as well as inmates of psychiatric hospitals are excluded from the registration and voting exercises.
Speaking in an interview with the Times, Kojo Graham, Executive Director of the centre, expressed fears that the delay in hearing the case could defeat the object of the suit, “which is to obtain the right for remand prisoners to vote in the December 7 general elections.”
He said there are currently over 3,000 remand prisoners countrywide.
He said even though both the Attorney-General and the Electoral Commission had been served as far back as July and October, respectively, “none of them has filed their responses” which by the rules of the Courts, should have been done 14 days after serving.
That, notwithstanding, Mr. Graham said, the case could have been listed for hearing.
He was, therefore, appealing to the CJ to “restate our hope and concern that this matter be heard before December 7, 2008”.
A source at the office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court told the Times yesterday that the case had been forwarded to the CJ's office.
According to the source, the CJ was in the process of empanelling a bench to hear the case, “it was only last Friday that she called for the docket,” it said, adding that “as soon as she finishes, a date will be set4 for the hearing”.
Even though the current case involves only remand prisoners, Mr Graham is hopeful that its outcome will have consequential effect for even convicted prisoners.
He said also that the centre was of the view that the Representation of the People's Amendment Act (PNDC LAW 284) passed by Parliament was in excess of its mandate, that unlike in other jurisdictions, where Parliaments have exclusive powers, “the legislative power of Ghana's Parliament is subject to the Constitution.”
To back his claim, he quoted Article 93 (2) which states that “ subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the legislative power of Ghana shall be vested in parliament and shall be exercised in accordance with this Constitution.”