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General News of Sunday, 9 June 2019

Source: classfmonline.com

Be mindful of Ayariga’s privileges, immunity – Speaker to Court

The Speaker of Parliament, Prof Mike Oquaye, has written to the High Court prosecuting Bawku Central MP, Mahama Ayariga to respect his constitutional privileges and immunity as a lawmaker as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.

Mr Ayariga is being prosecuted by the Office of the Special Prosecutor for tax evasion.

On Tuesday, it had to take the intervention and ruling of the Speaker for the lawmaker to leave parliament for the High Court after the judge insisted in the morning of that day that Mr Ayaria must personally be available in court by 1 p.m. since he was facing criminal prosecution, thus, not entitled to his parliamentary immunity.

According to the judge, Mr Ayariga would have been entitled to his parliamentary privileges and immunity were he being invited to the court as a witness rather than an accused person.

In a subsequent letter to the court following Mr Ayariga’s appearance, Prof Oquaye said: “I have attached a copy of the ruling on the 4th of June 2019 on the matter. In my ruling, I underscored the need for the recognition of the usefulness and relevance of the constitutional privileges and immunities that are accorded the Speaker, Members of Parliament and Clerk to Parliament and, indeed, other members in other arms of government.

“The combined effect of the provisions on privileges and immunities is to ensure the smooth administration of the judicial, legislative and executive governance of our Republic.

“I provided in my ruling that I trust that the Court will honour these time-tested privileges and immunities and to judicially manage the case so as to ensure the ends of justice are met and yet equally that the work of Parliament as an Institution and the representative function of the Member of Parliament for the people of Bawku Central will not be impeded.

“Kindly bring to the Court’s attention the above constitutional provisions, my Ruling on parliamentary privileges and immunities, and the hope that while recognising that no one is above the law, yet privileges provided under Constitution are also applied”, the Speaker said in the correspondence which is produced below in full.

The Registrar

High Court (Financial Court 2)

Accra

Dear Sir/Madam

PARLIAMENTARY PRIVILEGE AND IMMUNITY OF HON. MAHAMA AYARIGA

Please refer to the commencement of arraignment proceedings against the Hon. Mahama Ayariga, Member of Parliament for Bawku Central before the High Court (Financial Court 2) on Tuesday, 4th June 2019 and subsequent hearings on motions in relation to same.

Parliament has commenced the Second Meeting of the Third Session of the 7th Parliament of the Republic of Ghana. This House commenced sitting for this Meeting on the 28th May 2019 and is expected to rise sine die on the 2nd day of August 2019.

Consequently, kindly bring to the Court’s attention the following provisions of the 1992 Constitution.

1.Article 117 which reads “civil and criminal processes coming from any court or place out of Parliament shall not be served on, or executed in relation to, the Speaker or Member or Clerk to Parliament while he is on his way to, attending at, or returning from, any proceedings of Parliament.”

2.Article 118(1) which reads “neither the Speaker nor the member of, nor the Clerk to Parliament shall be compelled while attending Parliament to appear as a witness in any court or place out of Parliament.”

3.Article 122 which reads “An act or omission which obstructs or impedes a member or officer of Parliament in the discharge of his duties, or affronts the dignity of Parliament or which tends either directly or indirectly to produce that result, is contempt of Parliament.”

On Tuesday the 4th of June 2019, the Hon. Member brought to the attention of the House the invitation from the Office of the Special Prosecutor for him to attend court on that date. At that time the Hon. Member had not been served a criminal summons from the Honorable Court. The Hon. Member further informed the House that his lawyers had communicated to him that the Court had requested that the Hon. Member should attend Court by 1 p.m.

In consideration of the submissions of the Hon. Member and the Leadership of Parliament, I proceeded to make a ruling on the matter pursuant to the Articles above-mentioned of the 1992 Constitution and Orders 5 and 98 of the Standing Orders of Parliament. The Ruling included releasing the Hon. Member while the House was sitting to appear before this Court at the appointed time.

I have attached a copy of the ruling on the 4th of June, 2019 on the matter. In my ruling, I underscored the need for the recognition of the usefulness and relevance of the constitutional privileges and immunities that are accorded the Speaker, Members of Parliament and Clerk to Parliament and, indeed, other members in other arms of government. The combined effect of the provisions on privileges and immunities is to ensure the smooth administration of the judicial, legislative and executive governance of our Republic. I provided in my ruling that I trust that the Court will honour these time-tested privileges and immunities and to judicially manage the case so as to ensure the ends of justice are met and yet equally that the work of Parliament as an Institution and the representative function of the Member of Parliament for the people of Bawku Central will not be impeded.

Kindly bring to the Court’s attention the above constitutional provisions, my Ruling on parliamentary privileges and immunities, and the hope that while recognising that no one is above the law, yet privileges provided under Constitution are also applied.

Please accept the assurance of my highest esteem.

RT. HON. PROF. AARON MICHAEL OQUAYE
SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT

CC: Hon. Mahama Ayariga (MP, Bawku Central)
Parliament House
Accra