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Piercing the political veil: The case of James Gyekye Quayson

James Gyekye Quayson Member of Parliament for Assin North, James Gyekye Quayson

Sun, 20 Feb 2022 Source: A K Gyasi

The Supreme Court of Ghana on February 1, 2022, ordered for a writ of summons to be served directly on the embattled Member of Parliament for Assin North, James Gyekye Quayson.

While the public and persons with interest may have been carried away in the entire euphoria surrounding the case of the MP which has travelled through the High Courts, the significance of the decision by the Supreme Court remains one thing that must not be lost on upholders of the tenets of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution.

The framers of the 1992 Constitution in their wisdom and in the sagacity of insulating members of parliament from harassment through judicial processes in a way that affects the execution of their duties, specified in Article 117 of the constitution that “Civil or criminal process coming from any court or place out of Parliament shall not be served on, or executed in relation to, the Speaker or a member or the Clerk to Parliament while he is on his way to, attending at or returning from, any proceedings of Parliament.”

While this provision of the constitution has largely served its purpose, there has been various instances where Article 117 has clearly been used as a tool of abuse against the functioning of the same constitution.

Under the article, some MPs who have been cited for criminal offenses tend to seek refuge by alluding to same and other immunities to evade service and execution of summons and orders.

The Member of Parliament for Madina Francis-Xavier Sosu in October 2021, was cited by the Ghana Police Service for committing offenses during a local demonstration which he led against bad roads in his constituency.

The police charged him for unlawfully blocking a public road and the destruction of public property.

Efforts by the police to arrest the MP for committing a crime and charging him for same was delayed and rendered nearly impossible after he sought refuge under parliamentary immunity.

Under the umbrella of Article 117, the MP sought an immunity which was nonexistent within the context of his actions.

Despite the police eventually getting him to appear before a court to answer for the charges, his claims of immunity under Article 117 and the seeming failure of the police to effect his arrest remains telling of the glaring abuse of the article.

Then comes in the case of the Assin North MP, James Gyekye Quayson who has now been hit with criminal charges including forgery, the deceit of a public officer, knowingly making a false declaration and perjury.

A Cape Coast High Court in 2021, ruled that James Gyekye Quayson did not qualify to contest the December 7, 2020, parliamentary election as he bore dual citizenship at the time of filing his nomination to contest on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress.

The case against the MP which has now generated into multiple legal actions, borders on Article 94 (2) of the 1992 Constitution which stipulates the eligibility of a person to hold office as a member of parliament. (Precedent for this case lies in Bielbiel Vrs Adamu Daramani Sakande and Another (J1 2 of 2010) [2011] GHASC 24 (26 October 2011).)

Article 94 (2) (a) states that “A person shall not be qualified to be a member of Parliament if he - owes allegiance to a country other than Ghana.”

The case of the state against James Gyekye Quayson is that at the time of filing his nomination, he held a Canadian and a Ghanaian citizenship, making him a dual citizen and not eligible to contest in an election.

With further evidence of false declaration to acquire a Ghanaian passport, the AG compounded his charges with perjury.

Despite the evidence of the alleged crime committed in his personal capacity, James Gyekye Quayson whom the Cape Coast High Court in its ruling in 2021, asked to cease holding himself as an MP, sought to avoid summons citing the same Article 117.

Albeit with an attempt to appeal the High Court’s decision, Gyekye Quayson who continues to hold himself as Member of Parliament for Assin North, avoided summons until the Supreme Court’s decision on February 1, 2024.

The Supreme Court by its order to cause the writ of summons to be directly served on the Assin North MP, clearly defined the limits of Article 117 in terms of bringing legal action against Members of Parliament.

In the spirit of holding the 1992 Constitution to its true purpose, the significance of the order by the Supreme Court cannot be overlooked.

Just as any competent court of law will set aside the principles of separate legal entity and the corporate veil of a company which provide immunity for shareholders directors to personally hold a director or shareholder liable for his actions and inactions that may be in breach of the law, the Supreme Court by the order has indeed pierced the political veil which in this case shields MPs.

Rightly so, the court has affirmed that political office holders must not and cannot hide behind the veil of politics to commit crimes and seek insulation from the rigors of the law.

Columnist: A K Gyasi
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