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General News of Wednesday, 5 June 2019


Ayariga case: Majority Leader unhappy with ‘inconsistent’ interpretation of immunity clauses

The Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu says the irregular application of portions of the constitution, with regards to immunity of Parliamentarians, is making the hearing of the criminal case against Member of Parliament for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga complicated.

His comments follow a High Court’s order to Mahama Ayariga to ensure he is available in court anytime his criminal case is heard.

According to the court, the immunity enjoyed by parliamentarians in Article 118 (2) is for only when they are to appear as witnesses and not as accused persons citing the same Article which states that MPs cannot be compelled to appear before a court while attending to the business of Parliament.

Following the ruling, Parliament seems to be divided because the Speaker wants the court to try Mr. Ayariga in a manner that does not conflict with his schedule as a sitting member of the House.

Speaking on Eyewitness News, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu who is also the Majority Leader in Parliament, blamed the current turn of events on the inconsistent use of the said provision in the past.

“The courts have not been very helpful in being consistent and uniformed in their application of the constitutional provision relating to Article 117, 118 and 122. Some of them will want to revert, to Article 17, which is on equality of all citizens before the law and that there shouldn’t be any discrimination.”

“I thought that there are best practices. One will want to see what happens in other jurisdictions and I thought that it should inform us about the best way forward. Unfortunately, the Minority leader is saying that, they are going to the Supreme Court on their own and I cannot obstruct them, he stressed.

Mr. Mensah Bonsu also called for concerted efforts among the relevant stakeholders to ensure that they adopt a workable approach to deal with what he termed as inconsistencies.

“I will want us to get a common platform and talk as a collective. This is not an Ayariga matter; it is a matter for parliament and the nation because Parliament is the people’s representative. So we should come together to chart a common way forward. If we have a common course we should be fighting that common course from a common platform”, he added.

Article 117, 118 and 122 states the following:

Article 117 states that: Civil or criminal process coming from any court or place out of Parliament shall not be served on, or executed in relation to, the Speaker or a member or the Clerk to Parliament while he is on his way to, attending at or returning from, any proceedings of Parliament.

Article 118 (1): Neither the Speaker, nor a 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.

(2): The certificate of the Speaker that a member or the Clerk is attending the proceedings of Parliament is conclusive evidence of attendance at Parliament.

Article 122: An act or omission which obstructs or impedes Parliament in the performance of its functions or 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.