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09.02.2006 Crime & Punishment

Anane’s Lawyers Raise Issues On CHRAJ’s Jurisdictions

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The team of lawyers for the Minister of Road Transport, Dr Richard Anane, yesterday raised issues about the jurisdiction and procedure of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in the matter relating to allegations of corruption, abuse of office and misuse of public funds made against the minister.

Mr Peter Zwennes, a member of the team, said the notice of investigation sent to them, as well as other correspondence between the commission and the team, showed that CHRAJ was investigating the issue without a formal complaint being made by anyone nor a complainant.

He said going by the Constitution, the CHRAJ Act of 1993 and the Constitutional Instrument (CI) 7 which related to complaint procedure which the commission had extensively quoted as its legal basis and mandate in investigating the issue, there needed to be a complainant or a formal complaint to clearly show the boundaries of procedure and jurisdiction.

Mr Zwennes said failure to do that meant dispensing with the rules of natural justice, since CHRAJ, on its own motion, could not conduct investigations on allegations that emanated from nowhere, empanel itself to hear those allegations and make a decision on them.

Buttressing the point, the lead counsel of the team, Mr Jacob Acquah-Sampson, said Articles 284, 287 and 218(a) of the Constitution quoted by CHRAJ as its legal basis and mandate for proceeding with the investigations on corruption, misuse of public funds and abuse of office needed to be deleted from the proceedings, since adherence to them would mean there had to be a complainant and a formal complaint, as stipulated in the CI 7 and other provisions.

He said proceedings needed to be limited only to the general jurisdiction of CHRAJ in Article 218(e) of the Constitution, which did not insist on the need for a complainant or a formal complaint.

In response, counsel for the commission, Dr P.E. Bondzie Simpson, said the application by the team of lawyers related simply to two issues, that without a complainant, there could be no investigations or there had to be limited investigations.

He said both issues raised could not stand because CI 7 could not be used to oust or limit the jurisdiction of the commission in its functions.

He said taking all the provisions quoted in its entirety, the commission had a broad framework within which to operate in carrying out its investigative functions.

The acting Commissioner of CHRAJ, Ms Anna Bossman, after an hour of submissions and counter-submissions from both parties, asked the team of lawyers for Dr Anane to formally submit the issues they had raised by Friday, February 10, 2006, to be considered with responses from the commission.

Earlier, she had sternly charged Mr Raymond Archer to make himself available at the times that all parties would agree to meet, following his absence at Tuesday's hearing and his failure to submit a written statement.

She said the commission was flexible but would not tolerate it if people toyed with it. She cautioned parties that unless good reasons could be given for absence from the hearings, certain sanctions would be invoked by the commission against the offending party.

That was after Mr Archer had apologised for his inability to be present at the second sitting because he was indisposed.

He also attributed his inability to submit his written statement to a communication lapse between him and the commission.

Hearing continues today.