Lotto Machine A five-member panel of the Supreme Court has unanimously directed that the case between the Ghana Lotto Operators Association (GLOA) and National Lotto Authority (NLA) be returned to Justice Edward Asante, an Accra Fast Track High Court Judge, for urgent consideration.
This was after the court had quashed Justice Ofori-Atta's ruling that dismissed an application for interlocutory injunction and stay of execution sought by GLOA on grounds that the judge lacked jurisdiction to determine whether the case was already pending at Justice Asante's court.
The urgency for the High Court to decide the matter is because it involves revenue.
The ruling of Ofori Atta outlawed the operation of private lotto operators.
The operators, comprising Obiri Asare and Sons, Rambel Enterprise Limited, Agrop Association Limited, Dan Multi-Purpose Trading Enterprise Limited, Star Lotto Limited and From-Home Enterprise, challenged the jurisdiction of the High Court presided over by Justice K.A. Ofori-Atta to hear the application before a different court without an order of transfer.
Justice William Atuguba, who read the decision of the court, noted that according to the records of proceedings, there was no evidence that the case was transferred to Justice Ofori-Atta's court by the Chief Justice (CJ).
The court indicated that once there was not an order from the CJ, the matter must be transferred to Justice Ofori-Atta's court since any direction by that court in the interest of justice could not hold.
According to the judges, nobody including the Registrar has the power to transfer a matter already pending in a court of competent jurisdiction to a different court except the CJ, who has prerogative to do so.
The Registrar therefore had no business transferring the docket without an order from the CJ, the court noted.
Other members on the panel were Justices Julius Ansah, Date-Baah, Rose Owusu and Sophia Adinyira.
Challenging the manner in which their case was transferred, the operators stated that it was illegal and should be condemned.
They explained that the matter was originally before Mr. Justice Abada until the Chief Justice transferred it to Mr. Justice Asante who after hearing the motion dismissed the entire suit against the NLA.
According to them, they filed an appeal against Justice Asante's ruling and as a result, filed for a stay of execution pending the appeal, but the judge adjourned the case to October 22, 2008.
They said because Justice Asante was on annual leave, his clerk adjourned the matter to November 6, 2008 but the matter was transferred that very day to Justice Ofori Atta without prior notice to the interested parties, and November 6, 2008 was fixed for ruling.
According to him, despite their objection that they were not aware of any changes and that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter, Justice Ofori Atta gave his ruling by dismissing their application.
Kizito Beyuo, counsel for NLA, in response, conceded that the procedure for the transfer of the docket to a different court was not followed, but said the law allows it in exceptional cases such as this.
He stated that the reason why the case was moved to Justice Ofori Atta's court was because Justice Asante was on leave and the case which is of public interest and is affecting government income was to be determined without further delay.
Beyuo argued that based on a ruling of the Supreme Court that the Lotto Act 722 was constitutional and that it does not infringe on the human right of the applicant, any court would have granted GLOA's application to dismiss the suit without an order from the Chief Justice. He said the jurisdiction exercised by Justice Ofori Atta in hearing the matter was derived from the Court of Appeal.
The procedure for the transfer, according to him, should not be the basis on which the court would quash the whole ruling; and that even if they were wrong, the court should look at the substance of the matter to find out if the application is worth granting.
By Mary Anane