Election Petition: Hot Exchanges Galore…Judges, Lawyers Clash In Supreme Court

Emotions went overdrive at the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning when a feisty banter ensued between the bench and bar in the on-going presidential election petition.
Tempers calmed only after the commanding voice of Presiding Judge, Justice William Atuguba came down on Mr. Philip Addison, lead counsel for the petitioners to resume his seat.
President of the panel of judges first ordered key witness for the Petitioners, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia to bring his mind to court, this was after the witness, in answering a question posed to him by counsel third Respondent, Mr Tsatsu Tsikata whether he (Dr Bawumia) was aware that Mr Owusu Afriyie, General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) had asked supporters to celebrate an NPP-win even before final results were declared, sought to offer additional information.
Mr. Addison objected to the question saying: “My Lords, we are being subjected to a number of irrelevant questions and when the irrelevant questions are asked and the Witness is giving the answers, he’s being stopped from giving the answer, whereas the questioner is not stopped in these irrelevant questions that are being asked.”
He continued: “I think it is unfair…if he asks those questions, the witness should be allowed to give a full answer to those irrelevant questions”.
However Justice Atuguba warned the Counsel to be mindful of what questions to tag as relevant or irrelevant.
“We are following the case and relevancy depends on us”, adding that: “The questions about declaration of victory and all that, if you feel they are irrelevant, as far as I am concerned, they are vitally relevant to this case and the answer he has to give should be pertinent,” he thundered.
“We have authority [but] we don’t want to exercise it too much but we cannot be over-run too,” he added.
An obdurate Philip Addison however replied: “My Lords, I take objection to the question relating to Church and wearing white. I think it is irrelevant; it is the position we take. If the Court rules that it is relevant, fine, but we take the view that it is irrelevant so far as these issues are concerned”.
The Bench, however, eventually had its way.
In answer to Mr. Tsikata’s question, Dr. Bawumia said he was not aware of the victory declaration made by Mr. Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, adding that: “If party officials made statements, [those were] their view, we only examined the records”.
But an unimpressed Justice Atuguba, sharply cut in, calling on the witness to halt his apparent evasiveness in answering the question.
“You see you are a doctor, you are very intelligent…so help us. This case, let me tell you, people are approaching from two fronts: the political front and the issues here. We are dealing with only the issues here, so bring your mind to the courtroom”.
“Let us get at the facts of the matter and ascertain the truth and declare it”, he added.
Once again, Counsel for the Petitioners, who felt that his client, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, was being restricted too much in his responses to questions under cross examination by third respondent counsel, then stood up to protest.
“It is becoming difficult for the witness to be answering questions the way [the Judges] were finding problems with every answer the witness gives,” he posited.
Justice Atuguba however stood his grounds and defended the Bench’s stern posture by stating that “because it has come to a stage when we think we have to control these things”.
When he (Addison) tried to explain the rationale behind his client’s style of answering questions, he was ordered by Justice Atuguba to “sit down”.
“I think that what we are doing is within our authority and we will do it. Sit down!” was Justice Atuguba’s precise order to the complaining Mr. Addison.
Beyond the Justice Atuguba vs. Philip Addison clash, there were also side attractions between Tsatsu Tsikata and Justice Vida Akoto Bamfo as well as Atuguba vs. Akoto Bamfo.
On Day 10 of his cross-examination of Dr. Bawumia, counsel for the National Democratic Congress also introduced the witness to a statement dated December 9, 2012, said to have emanated from officials of the NPP, in which they had among other things, raised several allegations including criminal conduct and other issues that questioned the credibility of the December 2012 polls.
In open court, Tsatsu led Bawumia to read portions of the statement and proceeded to ask him questions on it.
“Now that statement alleging a conspiracy between the first respondent and third respondent, that statement is it not,” said Tsatsu.
Bawumia: That is not what we brought to court. When we had the election… (Tsatsu interrupts him)
Tsatsu: That statement is not true, can you answer my question before… (Bawumia interrupts him)
Bawumia: I cannot conclusively say whether it’s true or not. We have not come to court to prove that particular case, we have come to court because of over-voting and so on.
[Then steps in Justice Atuguba] The first paragraphs constitute an answer to the question, the rest of it gratuitous, eh, excursions which we have repeatedly said should be excised. Let us move forward.
Tsatsu: In that same statement, there is a specific allegation about Savelugu constituency….
[The exchanges continued until Tsatsu asked whether Dr Bawumia, as a petitioner, was in a position to verify allegations of “vote stealing” in the Savelugu constituency against Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in favour of President John Mahama.] “No, the record of the Pink sheet I think will show what exactly the results were from all the particular polling stations in that constituency, it is not the case that we have before this court,” replied Bawumia.
Tsatsu: What I asked you was, the people who could speak to what happened as described, as alleged in the statement. The people who could speak are people like the presiding officer in that constituency in Savelugu and the collation centre returning officer, is that not correct?
Bawumia: The pink sheets would speak for themselves as a record of the election in Savelugu constituency.
Tsatsu: That allegation about what transpired at the Savelugu constituency is not true, I’m putting it to you.
Bawumia: Well it is not the case we have brought to court, what after the… [Justice Atuguba steps in].
Justice Atuguba: He is reading from your petition, isn’t it? [He asks Bawumia] Bawumia: No he is not reading from my petition he is reading from a letter that the chairman (of NPP)…
Justice Atuguba: Oh ok, ok, oh it’s part of your case anyway.
Bawumia: No
Justice Atuguba: Ah, well it’s now being used as part of the proceedings, that’s what I mean. And to that extent, you know, he can ask you questions to that effect and confine yourself to the purview of the question.
More soon…
Credit: Peacefmonline

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