I decided not to talk on constitutional issues but I have to speak on SC ruling on Deputy Speakers – Pres

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President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has revealed that since he become President in 2017, he decided not to comment on any constitutional issue that comes up for discussion.

He said when he was a barrister, he was involved in helping define some of the principles in law and interpretations of constitutional matters. Therefore, he said, if he comments on such issues, he will be setting himself up to rival the Supreme Court.

But, he said, he feels compelled to break his silence on the Supreme Court ruling on the Deputy Speakers of Parliament taking a vote while presiding in the House.

Mr Akufo-Addo told journalists on the sidelines of the Dubai Expo on Thursday March 10 that “Let me begin first of all, by saying that as a rule, I made it a point, since I became President, as much as possible not to comment on constitutional issues.

“People who are students of our constitutional law or our constitutional jurisprudence are very much aware of the role that I played when I was a barrister in helping define some of these basic principles and interpretation, and I think that now that I have become president if every time there is a constitutional matter and I am heard to pronounce on it, it will give the impression that I am setting myself as a rival of the Supreme Court.

“I have been very reluctant to do that, for that reason. The body that the constitution has set up to be responsible for declaring the meaning of the constitution and interpreting it is the judiciary with the Supreme Court at the apex, and as a matter of good governance it is better that that body which has been given this exclusive power is the one that is heard on constitutional issues. That is the reason why I have not been open or vocal on constitutional matters. But I think this one feel I strongly that I should make some comments.”

“As far as I can see it, and I think the Supreme Court has confirmed it, the matters involved in this are open and shut, they are black and white. There can be no dispute about the issues that the gentleman took to the Supreme Court.”

He indicated that Articles 102, 104 of the Constitution make it absolutely clear, “in black and white”, that the Deputy Speakers, when they are presiding have the right to participate in the vote of the Parliament.

“Indeed, and I believe that is part of the reasoning of the Court, all the Legislatures of the world, where the presiding person is a Member of the Legislature, like our Deputy Speakers are, like the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the United States of America or the President pro tempore of the Senate in the United States, or the Speaker of the British Parliament have the right to speak because they are Members of the Assembly,” President Akufo-Addo said.

He continued, “Our Speaker is expressly not a Member of the Assembly, that is why he doesn’t have the right to vote. In fact, he really ought not to participate in the deliberations of the House, he is a referee making sure that the debate is conducted properly, or the orders of the House are complied with. That is his role. But he ought, strictly speaking, not to be part of the proceedings of the House. That is not the case with the Deputy Speakers, and that matter is transparent on the face of our Constitution”.

The apex court on Wednesday dismissed an application to pronounce as unconstitutional, Joseph Osei Wusu’s action of counting himself for the purposes of quorum.

Justice Jones Dotse ruled that the Deputy Speaker of Parliament participation in voting was constitutional.

Private legal practitioner and law lecturer, Justice Abdulai subsequent to the November 30, 2021 clash between Speaker Bagbin and his First Deputy after the latter overturned an earlier vote of the House rejecting Government’s 2022 Budget invited the Supreme Court to pronounce as unconstitutional, Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei Owusu’s action of counting himself for the purposes of quorum.

He argued in the context of articles 102 and 104 of the 1992 Constitution that the Deputy Speaker was not permitted to count himself for the purposes of quorum, since he had neither an original nor a casting vote as Speaker presiding.

But the 7-member panel of justices ruled that the Member of Parliament for Bekwai exercised his right constitutionally, TV3’s Laud Adu Asare who was in court reported.

The SC struck out the standing order 109(3) which says a Deputy Speaker or any other member presiding shall not retain his original vote while presiding.

It furthered that the Deputy Speaker can be counted during the quorum for decision making according to article 104(1)

Justice Jones Dotse noted that the full ruling will be made available on Friday, March 11.

By Laud Nartey|3news.com|Ghana

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