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Opinions of Sunday, 7 March 2021

Columnist: Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako

2020 Election Petition: A lawyer’s advice

On Thursday, 4th March 2021, the Supreme Court of Ghana by a 7-0 unanimous decision dismissed the petition brought against the gazetted results of the 2020 presidential election as without merit.

Following the verdict, a prominent lawyer shared his final thoughts with me, and I share same with you with the hope that we can all learn something from it.

“There is always a real danger when vague ideas of justice undefined by statute or case law are propounded and brandished like a cure-all magic wand – without appreciating the actual position, namely, that the true legal notions of justice are circumscribed by the demands of the law and that in this court we administer justice according to three and only three yardsticks: statute, case law or our well defined practice." Taylor J in Bonsu v Bonsu.

We went to law school to study law. Law follows a set of rules. Every court has its set of rules. We have an adversarial system of justice. When you sue, either you win or your adversary wins. Unless the parties decide to settle the case out of court and file terms of settlement which the Court then enters as consent judgement, or the parties resort to Alternative Dispute Resolution, we do not have what is called a negotiated settlement, in court. There is always a winner and a looser.

Notions of justice should be based on set rules. Every court has its rules. The Supreme Court has 6 distinct jurisdictions.

1. Original Jurisdiction

2. Review Jurisdiction

3. Appeal Jurisdiction

4. Supervisory Jurisdiction

5. Reference Jurisdiction

6. Presidential Election Jurisdiction

Each of these jurisdictions has its own rules. If you do not properly invoke the jurisdiction of the court, you are out.

Also, when someone sues you, you can ask all the relevant questions and once you are satisfied you can simply decide not to testify and let the case end there. It is a risk that you take and you are bound by it.

The take away from this case is that, as Asiedu Nketia said in 2013, “any idiot can go to court”. What has been established too is that, once any ‘idiot’ takes you to court, you can also decide not to respond to the ‘idiocy’ and the court ought to decide the matter on the strength of his case.

So, always think twice and get your act together before you decide to go to court under any circumstances.

Happy Independence Day!

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