Ghanaian News

Granting Gyakye Quayson’s application will discriminate against other accused persons says Attorney General

The Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, has stated that the deposed Assin North Member of Parliament, James Gyakye Quayson, cannot be treated differently from all other accused persons standing trial in criminal matters in courts across the country.

Dame made these submissions in arguments he made in court on Wednesday 21 June 2023, in opposition to a motion filed by veteran lawyer Tsatsu Tsikata, seeking to suspend the day-to-day perjury trial of James Gyakye Quayson, who was declared ineligible for the 2020 parliamentary elections and consequently lost his seat in the legislature.

Tsikata’s motion for suspension was premised on the fact that Gyakye Quayson is on a national assignment because he has been put up for a by-election in his constituency, Assin North, by the opposition National Democratic Congress following the expunction of his name from the records of Parliament after a judgement of the Supreme Court.

Mr. Tsikata had argued that the law enjoins everyone to campaign without unlawful interference. Participating in an election to represent the people of Assin North had national significance. He therefore prayed the court to grant the accused leave to go and take part in the elections.

Godfred Dame however countered; “The decision to stand for an election is a private one. A right must be distinguished from a duty. Article 55 of the Constitution confers a right to participate in politics but not a duty to do same.

“It tells us that whereas one is entitled to engage in politics, one is not under an obligation to stand for elections. Indeed, implicit in the right to participate in an election also is a right not to participate in an election. It is thus a completely private decision for one to put oneself up for an election, and not a national assignment or duty as the accused seeks to say” the AG Godfred Dame said in open court.

“A national assignment is a duty that is imposed on you. Participating in an election is not an imposed duty”. Indeed, article 55(13) actually says that the right to conduct a campaign is to be exercised in accordance with law. One such law is the Criminal Procedure Act of Ghana which requires the accused to come to court” Dame added.

The Attorney General in driving home his assertions, then proceeded to show why a ruling in favour of discontinuing the trial until after the elections will rather promote discrimination in Ghana.

“Article 17 of the 1992 Constitution says all persons are equal before the law. This is fundamental to the rule of law. If a teacher or farmer cannot refuse to attend or resist a daily hearing of his criminal case because he has to go to work, why should a politician be able to avoid trial because he wants to go and campaign?

“The farmer could also come and say that he is due for a national award or a teacher preparing their students for an exam would like their criminal trials suspended because they have to teach their students. But this is not done. It will therefore be discriminatory to do that for a politician and not do that for a teacher or a farmer”, the Attorney-General submitted.

“Granting the application would be discriminatory, contrary to the constitution and will create an absurdity.” Dame concluded.

The court is due to rule on the motion on suspending the day to day perjury trial of the Assin North deposed MP on Friday, June 23, 2023.

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