The General Jurisdiction High Court, presided over by Justice Charles Edward Ekow Baiden, has dismissed an application filed by nine Ghanaian citizens against the Attorney General and the National Communications Authority, seeking judicial review in the nature of certiorari and an interlocutory injunction against the AG and NCA, preventing them from going ahead to implement the 30 September 2022, deadline for sim card re-registration in Ghana.
The application was premised on the argument that the applicants had applied for Ghana Cards at various points in time but were yet to receive their identity cards.
The applicants assert that the issuance of the Ghana Card by the National Identification Authority (NIA) has been beset with several challenges to the extent that the NIA has not been able to carry out its mandate as such, many Ghanaians could not register their sim cards at the close of exercise which even made the respondents, the second respondent (the NCA) in particular to grant an extension of the deadline.
The applicants therefore argued that should the court allow the state and the NCA to stick to the re-registration deadline, they risked losing their sim cards through no fault of theirs.
The nine applicants in the case were: Belynda Naa Odey Hammond, Jennifer Elorm Dzikunu, Charity Mansah Afua N Ackotia, Nsor Sabasi, Josephine Annor Prempeh, Vida Delacy Kemevor, Regina Elikplim Dagadu, Irene Ayariga and Tracy Ashong. In their application filed on 22 September 2022, the applicants were seeking seven reliefs.
First, they sought a declaration that the impugned directive of the respondents requiring the applicants to re-register their mobile phone sim with the Ghana Card as the only identity document, at a time when the National Identification Authority had not been able to issue Ghana Cards to applicants, was in breach of Articles 21, 23 and 296 of the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana, the National Communications Authority Act 2008 (Act 769), the Subscriber Identity Module Registration Regulation 2011 (LI 2006) and the National Identity Register Regulation 2012 (LI 2111) and so, to that extent, null and void.
Second, they wanted a declaration that the impugned directives of the respondents, on the use of the applicants’ mobile phone sim cards and network services, imposing punitive measures/sanctions commencing 5 September 2022, breach Articles 21, 23 and 296 of the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana, the National Communications Authority Act 2008 (Act 769), the Subscriber Identity Module Registration Regulation 2011 (LI 2006) and the National Identity Register Regulation 2012 (LI 2111) and so, to that extent, were null and void.
Third, the applicants sought a declaration that the impugned directives of the respondents to applicants’ mobile telecommunication companies to block, disconnect, deactivate, churn and/or in any other way or manner limit the use of the applicants’ mobile phone sim cards and network services by 30 September 2022, at a time when there was no reasonable possibility of applicants receiving their Ghana Cards from the National Identification Authority on or before 30 September 2022 for the purpose of using the identity cards to register their sim cards, was unfair, unreasonable, contrary to law and to that extent, unenforceable.
Fourth, the applicants sought an order of the court in the nature of certiorari directed at respondents to bring before the court for the purpose of being quashed any order, decision, policy and/or directive issued to mobile telecommunication companies operating in Ghana to block, disconnect, deactivate, restrict and/or in any other way or manner limit the use of the applicants’ mobile phone sim cards and network services, unless applicants register or re-register the said sim cards on or before 30 September 2022.
Fifth, the nine applicants sought an order of the court in the nature of certiorari directed at respondents to bring before the high court for the purpose of being quashed any order, decision, policy and/or directive issued to mobile telecommunications companies operating in Ghana to impose punitive measures/sanctions against applicants’ mobile phone sim cards and network services during the period commencing 5 September 2022.
Sixth, they requested the court to issue an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents, whether acting by themselves or through agents, workmen, contractors and subcontractors, associates, as well as any and all such person or persons, from claiming and/or deriving authority through and/or under any or all of the respondents named in the application from imposing punitive measures. The potential sanctions included blocking, deactivating, restricting, churning and/or in any other way or manner limiting the applicants’ use of their mobile phone sim cards and network services.
The applicants desired the injunction to remain in place until such time as the National Identification Authority would make available to the applicants their Ghana Cards. Finally, they prayed the court to issue any further order, relief or reliefs as might seem just to it.
In his decision, Justice Charles Edward Ekow Baiden, noted: “The applicants admit that pursuant to Regulation 7 of LI 2111, the respondents had the power to limit the national identity document required for the purpose of registering sim cards to the Ghana Card issued by the NIA.
“I have carefully examined Exhibit ‘S’ (NCA press release announcing the 30 September 2022 re-registration deadline) attached to the affidavit in support of this application.
“It sets out measures that may be applied to unregistered SIM Cards at the end of September 2022. Exhibit ‘S’ does not satisfy legal standards to constitute a penal legislation within the meaning of Article 19 of the 1992 constitution.
“To my mind therefore, the measures announced in the Exhibit ‘S’ falls within the ambit of Section 3(a) of Act 769 which mandate the second respondent to ‘establish and monitor the implementation of standards and ensure compliance’,” Justice Baiden noted in his ruling.
“It seems to this court that in its zeal to ensure compliance, the respondents characterised Exhibit ‘S’ as punitive measures which the applicants have construed in its technical meaning.
“In the light of Articles 11(1)(c), 93(2) and 106 of the 1992 constitution, this court cannot share the view adopted by the applicants that Exhibit ‘S’ is intended to have effect as a penal legislation or that the Respondents exceeded their discretion when they issued out Exhibit ‘S’.
“For all the above reasons, I dismiss the application for judicial review in the nature of certiorari as without merit. For these same reasons, the application for interim injunction is also hereby dismissed. All parties shall bear their own costs,” the judge ruled.
The Attorney General (the first respondent) was represented in court by the assistant state attorney Reginald Nii Odoi.
The second respondent, the National Communications Authority, had Gary Nimako Marfo as its legal representative. The nine applicants were represented by Gafaru Ali.