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17.11.2005 General News

Court throws out SDA students' motion on examination dates

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Accra, Nov. 17, GNA - An Accra Fast Track High Court on Friday threw out an ex-parte motion filed by the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) students of the University of Ghana, Legon, to restrain the University from conducting examinations on Saturdays.

The Court noted that the motion, if granted, could affect a large number of students in excess of the 149 students.

According to the Court, the order being sought by the students was impracticable because it afforded the Courts no satisfactory compliance of the order being sought.

The Court further noted that the students failed to establish any irreparable loss they might suffer if the application was not granted. It, however, indicated that the grounds set out in the substantive matter would be set aside for hearing.

The Court awarded no cost.

Mr A. T. Konu, Registrar of the University, accompanied by Mr Emmanuel Ohene, a legal practitioner, represented the University. Arguing out the University's case, Mr Ohene said the issue of writing exams had been within the knowledge of the plaintiffs for a year.

According to him the issue was contained in the handbook, which had been made available to every student and the plaintiffs had indicated that in their own affidavit.

Mr Ohene said the students had earlier petitioned the University Council and the issue had been extensively discussed.

"It was later referred to the Academic Board. As I speak, Muslims are writing exams today and on Sunday two-thirds of the University population would also write exams. There had not been any discrimination whatsoever against a particular religious group."

According to him the University population had grown from 5,000 to nearly 30,000 stressing, "these are facts leading to abolishing the system which had been abused".

Mr Ohene cited the presence of external examiners saying if the motion was granted it would disrupt their programme as well as that of the University.

He, therefore, prayed the court to allow examinations to go on as planned and published.

Mr Albert Adaare, who represented the students, said the issue at stake was not on human rights violation but a legal right. According to him extending the exam to five working days was practicable.

On the issue of discrimination, Mr Adaare said it was not the issue of working on Saturdays but the Sabbath was the foundation of their beliefs and as such, the University could make alternatives since the students were ready to bear the cost.

Earlier this week, 149 students pursuing various courses at the University led by Mr Emmanuel Adu Poku prayed the Court for an order of interlocutory injunction to restrain the University from conducting examinations on November 19; November 26; December 3 and December 10, which are Saturdays.

They were also seeking perpetual injunction to restrain agents and servants of the University among others not to compel them to participate in academic activities including writing examinations on Saturdays.

The motion said the University's conduct of rescheduling examinations on Saturdays for courses offered was "illegal, unlawful and breach of human rights".

In an affidavit supporting the motion, the students declared that they were all members of the SDA, who sincerely practised the SDA religious faith that did not allow them to engage in any secular activity or work on Saturday (The Sabbath Day). These activities, they said, included attending lectures and tutorials or seminars.