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General News of Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Source: Myjoyonline.com

Parliament vrs High Court: Ayariga's decision to seek SC clarity gets backing

Two legal practitioners have backed a move by Bawku Central Legislator, Mahama Ayariga, to seek clarity on the extent of some the privileges granted Parliamentarians.

Inusah Fuseini, also a Legislator and Martin Kpebu, a private legal practitioner, have said an ongoing tension between the Judiciary and the Legislator on whether a sitting Parliamentarian can be made to stand trial in a criminal offence provides an opportunity to get a constitutional interpretation from the apex court.

Related: Judge throws out Speaker of Parliament immunity letter again

“I subscribe to the attempt to go to the Supreme Court. We should have the court pronounce on this once and for all,” said Martin Kpebu Monday evening on PM Express.

He said in England where a similar disagreement occurred, it took the country some five decades to resolve it.

“When it all begun, one day the [UK] Parliament imprisoned two judges for taking a decision that they thought infringed upon their privilege. They called the Judges before Parliament and cited them for contempt…there are other interesting cases. So in a democracy, these things happen,” Mr Kpebu added.

Mr Fuseini, Tamale Central Legislator also stated on the nightly programme on the Joy News channel on MultiTV that Ghana’s jurisprudence on the remits of the privileges and immunities can only be illustrated and better established if the Supreme Court makes a pronouncement.

Embattled legislator

Member Parliament for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga has said he will head to the Supreme Court to clarify the soundness of an Accra High Court ruling that will compel him to stand trial in a criminal case filed against him by the Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu.

High Court judge, Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe ruled that per Article 118 of the 1992 Constitution, legislators have immunity not to attend court in the course of their duty only when they have been invited to testify in court as witnesses.

According to her, since Ayariga is an accused person and not a witness, he is not immune to stand trial.

She also stressed that the rules of her court are entirely within her discretion and shall not be dictated by an MP’s privileges.

Charges

The MP is facing trial for allegedly using public office for private benefit after the court dropped three earlier charges.

The Special Prosecutor earlier charged Mr Ayariga with fraudulent evasion of customs duties and taxes, dealing in foreign exchange without a license and transfer of foreign exchange from Ghana through an unauthorised dealer.

But these were dropped because his lawyers argued that those charges do not under the purview of the Special Prosecutor’s office.