“Scandalous”, “disappointing” and “regret” were some of the words that reverberated throughout the Supreme Court yesterday when the court cited a former Deputy Attorney-General, (A-G), Dr Dominic Akurutinga Ayine, for contempt of court.
Wearing a brown suit and posing a stoic demeanour, Dr Ayine accepted his guilt for scandalising the highest court of the land and was subsequently ordered by the court to purge himself of those contemptuous comments.
“He should go and apologise for the harm he has caused to the legal profession and the bench,” the seven-member panel, presided over by the Chief Justice, Justice Anin Yeboah, ordered.
The former Deputy A-G is the first and so far only person to be cited for contempt of court in relation to the 2020 presidential election petition filed by former President John Dramani Mahama, the candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), in the 2020 presidential election.
Meanwhile, the court has fixed March 4, this year to deliver its judgment on the petition, in which the petitioner is challenging the declaration by the Electoral Commission (EC) that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), won the 2020 presidential poll.
The court fixed the date after it had dismissed a review application by the petitioner which was urging the court to change its ruling not to allow him to reopen his case.
Prior to Dr Ayine’s case, the court had warned lawyers, especially those representing the parties in the petition, not to make any comments relating to the petition, in accordance with the Legal Profession Act.
The former Deputy A-G, who is not a lawyer in the case but rather one of the spokespersons for the petitioner, found himself at the wrong side of the law when he accused the apex court of having a predetermined agenda to rule against the petitioner.
He made those comments in an interview with the media on February 16, this year, after the court had dismissed an application by Mr Mahama which was asking permission from the court to reopen his case to enable his lawyers to subpoena the Chairperson of the EC, Mrs Jean Adukwei Mensa, to testify.
The court, in exercise of its inherent powers, cited him for contempt of court and summoned him to come and explain to the court why he should not be committed for contempt of court.
Dr Ayine, who is also the NDC Member of Parliament (MP) for Bolgatanga East, decided not to explain or justify his actions but rather run to the throne of mercy of the court and beg for forgiveness.
He admitted making those comments and added that he deeply regretted them.
“My attention was drawn to the fact that I might have crossed the line. I render an unqualified apology,” he told the court.
His lawyer, Mr Frank Beecham, a former National President of the Ghana Bar Association ( GBA), begged the court to have mercy on his client.
He said the comments were inexcusable, adding that he was very disappointed with his client.
“He deeply regrets the harm done to the legal profession. He is deeply regretful and remorseful,” counsel said.
The court dealt leniently with Dr Ayine by deciding not to impose punitive measures against him.
He was, therefore, ordered to purge himself by apologising to the court through the same medium he used in making the contemptuous comments.
The court adjourned the contempt case to Thursday to consider whether or not Dr Ayine had purged himself.
The Chief Justice said when the court was satisfied that the contemnor had purged himself, the contempt case would be struck out.
However, some Justices on the panel expressed their disappointment in Dr Ayine for making the contemptuous comments.
Justice Nene Amegatcher wondered why, as a former Deputy A-G, Dr Ayine would make such disparaging comments about the court, especially since he (Ayine) had, in the past, been part of the Judicial Council.
“Some of us are very disappointed in you,” he said.
Justice Yaw Appau, who described Dr Ayine as a brother and friend, advised him to know when to talk as a politician and when to talk as a lawyer.
He said there were people who did not know the law and insulted judges without even having any clue about the issues before the court.
Such people, he explained, could be excused, but lawyers who knew that law could not be excused for indulging in that same act.
For the Chief Justice, scandalous comments against the court were killing the legal profession.
“A time will come when no one will come and sit here as a judge,” Justice Anin Yeboah said.
After the hearing, Dr Ayine appeared in front of the same media where he had made the scandalous comments and apologised to the court, in fulfilment of the court’s order for him to purge himself.
With Mr Frank Davies, one of the lawyers defending President Akufo-Addo, by his side, the former Deputy Attorney-General purged himself and apologised to the apex court.
“I have looked at what I have said that day and I have come to the conclusion that I went overboard and crossed the line with respect to the remarks that I made in terms of attributing impropriety to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Ghana,” he said.
With regard to the review application by the petitioner challenging the court’s ruling not to allow him to reopen his case, the court dismissed it as not having merit.
In a unanimous decision, the nine-member review panel held that lawyers for the petitioner failed to demonstrate any exceptional circumstances that had occasioned a miscarriage of justice to him (Mahama), nor did he introduce any new matter that could convince the court to change its ruling.
The court also granted a request by lead counsel for the petitioner, Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, for the court to allow him to file his closing address, although the deadline for filing was February 17, this year.
The court gave counsel up to the close of today (Tuesday) to file it.
In his petition, former President Mahama contended that no candidate won the 2020 presidential election and, therefore, the declaration of President Akufo-Addo as the winner of the election by Mrs Mensa was “null, void, unconstitutional and of no legal effect”.
He argued that as per the results announced by Mrs Mensa on December 9, 2020, no candidate garnered more than 50 per cent of the total valid votes cast, as required by Article 63(3) of the 1992 Constitution.
Former President Mahama, therefore, wants the Supreme Court to declare the declaration on December 9, 2020 as null and void and also order the EC to conduct a run-off between him and President Akufo-Addo.
He has also accused the EC of engaging in vote padding by deducting some of his votes and adding them to President Akufo-Addo’s.
In their answers, President Nana Akufo-Addo and the EC argued that the petition was incompetent, lacked merit and raised no reasonable cause of action.
It is their contention that the petition did not even meet the requirement of a presidential election petition, as stipulated in Article 64 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, and was, therefore, incompetent.
That, they argued, was because the petition made no allegation of infractions in the election at any of the 38,622 polling stations and 311 special voting centres.