17.05.2005 Crime & Punishment

A-G, Speaker Dragged To Court

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A-G, Speaker Dragged To Court
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THE Ghana National Poultry Farmers Association has filed a writ at the Supreme Court against the Attorney- General and the Speaker of Parliament, seeking a relief to compel them to enforce the Constitution by implementing the 20 per cent additional tariffs on imported poultry products.

It is also seeking an injunction against the defendants and their agents, restraining them from proceeding with the implementation of tariff levels imposed by the old tariffs regime, Act 686, because it was inconsistent with Article 107 (a) of the Constitution.

Furthermore, the association is praying the court for a declaration that by the enactment of Act 686, the defendants retroactively imposed a burden on the association's members to endure more intense competition from foreign poultry products, contrary to the Constitution.

According to a statement of claim accompanying the writ, the Minister of Finance, in the budget statement to Parliament in February 2003, proposed to impose an additional import tariff of 20 per cent on all imported finished poultry products into the country.

The rationale, it said, was to protect the domestic poultry industry, and pursuant to that, Parliament passed the Customs and Excise (Duties and other Taxes) Bill 2003 (Act 641) to raise the level of tariffs on finished imported poultry products from 20 per cent to 40 per cent.

For the purpose of implementing Act 641, the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) issued a tariff interpretation order number 1/2003, dated May 7, 2003, requesting all customs officers to apply, among other duties, the import duty rates and other taxes contained in the schedule to Act 641,” it said.

The statement said, however, that in or about May 12, 2003, the Commissioner of CEPS suspended the implementation and application of the requisite import duty rates imposed by Act 641 and directed that the import tariffs which were in force prior to Act 641 should be applied.

“By a subsequent tariff interpretation order number 2/2003, changes arising from the 2003 budget, the tariff rates contained in the schedule to Act 641 were completely removed and thus rendered inapplicable,” it said.

The statement said the association made efforts to have the Commissioner of CEPS to reinstate the tariff rates which Parliament duly imposed on finished imported poultry products in exercise of its powers under Article 174 of the Constitution but to no avail.

To compel the Commissioner of CEPS to implement and apply the tariffs mandated by Act 641, the statement said the association instituted an order of mandamus at the High Court against the CEPS Boss, arguing that it was his statutory public duty to implement the tariff rates imposed by Act 641.

It argued that the failure or neglect to comply with the edict of the legislature was unlawful and “a waiver of the imposition of a tax and unconstitutional as it offended the 'taxing and spending' powers of Parliament contained in Article 174 of the constitution”.

The statement said the High Court, on March 11, 2005, gave judgement in favour of the association, holding that it had discharged the burden of showing that the suspension of the implementation of Act 641 was not only unlawful but also unconstitutional and ordered that the Attorney- General and the Minister of Finance be joined to the suit to appear before it on April 21, 2005, to show why the order of mandamus sought by the association should not be issued.

It said while the association was putting together the processes to serve the two ministers, the Minister of Finance tabled a motion before Parliament for adoption and enactment of a bill, known as the Customs and Excise (Duties and other Taxes) Bill, 2005 to repeal Act 641.

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