A panel of seven-member Supreme Court Judges has in a unanimous decision rejected the old voters’ identification card as proof of Ghanaian citizen to qualify an eligible voter to register in the upcoming voters registration exercise to be conducted by the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana for the 2020 general polls.
That means all the reliefs that were being sought by the NDC and Takyi-Banson in their suit against the Attorney-General and the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana were all technically dismissed.
The NDC and Takyi-Banson had gone to the Supreme Court seeking among other reliefs:
A declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 45(a) of the 1992 Constitution, 2nd Defendant has the Constitutional power to, and can, compile a register of voters only once, and thereafter revise it periodically, as may be determined by law. Accordingly, 2nd Defendant can only revise the existing register of voters, and lacks the power to prepare a fresh register of voters, for the conduct of the December 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections;
Or in the Alternative, A declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution, specifically, Article 51 read conjointly with Article 42 of the Constitution, the power of the 2nd Defendant to compile and review the voters’ register must be exercised subject to respect for and the protection of the right to vote;
A declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution, particularly Article 42 of the Constitution, all existing voter identification cards duly issued by the 2nd Defendant to registered voters are valid for purposes of identifying such persons in the exercise of their right to vote;
A declaration that the 2nd Defendant, in purporting to exercise its powers pursuant to Article 51 of the 1992 Constitution to exclude the existing voter identification cards from the documents required as proof of identification to enable a person register as a voter without any justification is arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and contrary to Article 269 of the 1992 Constitution;
A declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of the Constitution, specifically, Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution, proof of identification for registration as a voter should not be limited by provisions of Public Elections (Registrations of voters) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020;
An order directed at the 2nd Defendant to include all existing voter identification cards duly issued by the 2nd Defendant as one of the documents serving as proof of identification for registration as a voter for the purpose of public elections;
Any other order or orders as this Honourable Court would deem fit in the circumstances.
The NDC and Mark Takyi-Banson had earlier withdrawn relief one, leaving the remaining reliefs for the Court to make a determination or interpret it.
However, in a ruling on Thursday, June 25, 2020, the panel of the Supreme Court judges chaired by the Chief Justice, Justice Anin-Yeboah, granted relief two and three of the suit brought before it by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Takyi-Banson versus the Attorney General (AG) and the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana. Relief two talks about all eligible voters making themselves available for registration as directed by the EC pursuant to Public Elections (Registration of Voters) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020, C. I. 126.
Relief three also talks about the use of the old voters’ ID card for the upcoming voters’ registration exercise subject to the prevailing C.I.126.
However, the prevailing C.I 126 prevents the use of the existing voters’ card as proof of identity in the compilation of the new register.
The parties involved in the suit were sharply divided over the Court’s direction.
The Court upon dismissing some of the reliefs sought by the NDC and Mark Takyi-Benson directed the EC to go ahead with the voter registration exercise as scheduled.
The Court also said the registration should be conducted in line with the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations 2012, C.I. 91 as amended as the newly passed Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2020 C.I. 126.
This left the parties more confused over whether the Court upheld the use of the existing voter ID card as proof of identity for the purposes of registration or not.
A private legal practitioner, Mr. E. Broni-Bediako Esq, told politicoghana.com that to understand the Orders of the apex Court, one has to keep the Reliefs side by side.
Below is his explanation per the ruling of the Supreme Court:
“Eight (8) reliefs were sought before the Court and 8 orders and consequential Orders were made. Among all the 8 orders, it’s only Relief 2 which appears unclear to many or intentionally twisted.
Relief 2 required an interpretation that upon a true and proper interpretation of the provisions of the 1992 Constitution, upon registration of and issuance of a voter ID card to a person (here making reference to existing Voter ID cards holders) that person has an accrued right to vote which cannot be divested in an arbitrary and capricious manner.
The Supreme Court granted this Relief 2 and said its granting of same is subject to the fact that all eligible voters must make themselves available for registration as directed by the Electoral Commission pursuant to the new CI 126”.