The Supreme Court has said a High Court Judge, Justice Amos Wuntah Wuni, cannot sit on the contempt case against the Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin Central, Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, due to complaints of bias and procedural irregularities.
The five-member panel presided over by Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, therefore, ordered that the quasi-criminal case against the NPP MP be transferred to another High Court for trial after hearing the MP’s application against the judge yesterday and issuing the order of prohibition.
With the Supreme Court prohibition in place, all the work that Justice Wuni did with respect to the trial of contempt against the MP have become null and void, and can only be taken up by another High Court judge who would have to start proceedings from the scratch.
The court has ordered for the case to be sent to the registrar of the court for it to be reassigned to a different High Court judge.
The order for Mr. Agyapong to appear before the High Court to answer why he should not be punished severely if found guilty of contempt of court as well as the charge sheet in the matter, however, are to remain.
The removal of Justice Wuni followed an application for prohibition and certiorari filed by lawyers for Mr. Agyapong who claimed that the judge had wrongfully assumed jurisdiction in trying the matter.
Moving the application at the Apex Court yesterday, Kwame Gyan, lead counsel for Mr. Agyapong, argued that the assumption of jurisdiction by High Court is not consistent with the law and whatever has transpired in the court below must be struck out.
He indicated that the purported comments for which Mr. Agyapong was summoned to the court were not directed at Justice Wuni but to a Commercial Court 2 Judge where Mr. Agyapong has a different personal civil matter.
It was the argument of Mr. Gyan that Justice Wuni wrongfully assumed jurisdiction because he assumed the comments were directed at him; hence, must be prohibited from hearing the matter because he is an ‘interested party’.
He said if the judge is not stopped from going ahead with the proceedings, it will be grave because he failed to recognise the powers of the Chief Justice when they petitioned him about the matter but the judge went ahead to hear the case.
The panel comprising Justices Baffoe-Bonnie Yaw Apau, Gabriel Pwamang, Tanko Amadu and Yonny Kulendi, however, reminded Mr. Gyan that an administrative petition to the Chief Justice is not a stay of proceedings; hence, that argument cannot hold.
Mr. Gyan also contended that during the course of the trial, the issue of the burden of producing evidence came up and while they were of the opinion that the prosecution bears the burden of proof, the judge said the defence should also go to Net2 TV on which the said contemptuous comment was made to get their evidence as he (Judge) has got his evidence from YouTube, a social media broadcast channel.
The MP’s application was opposed by the Deputy Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, who described it as “completely misconceived and unmeritorious.”
He said the application for prohibition and certiorari was predicated on the wrong assumption that there are different High Courts.
Mr. Dame argued that there is only one High Court and once the High Court is scandalized, any judge of the High Court has the power to hear the committal proceedings against the offender.
Mr. Dame also said that it is not in doubt that the comments by Mr. Agyapong ‘scandalized’ the court and therefore opposed the MP’s application to stop the trial judge from hearing the case.
However, he also said that the Supreme Court ought to also consider whether or not the comments made by the MP indeed scandalised the court.
In their ruling, the panel partially granted the application by prohibiting Justice Wuni from continuing to hear the matter and quashed all the proceedings that took place in his court.
The court, however, maintained the summons order and the charge sheet and ordered that the matter to be reassigned to a different judge.
The panel said the reasoning behind their decision would be available on October 20, 2020.
The MP had reportedly said on his NET2 TV station that the court’s decision to grant an injunction against him in a private land case was “stupid” because there was no due diligence.
Mr. Agyapong was subsequently summoned to appear before the court to show cause why he should not be ‘punished severely if found to be in contempt of court’ following certain statements he allegedly made against a judge hearing a civil case brought against him and two others.
“Defendant herein, allegedly scandalized and threatened this court in this case, pending before the court, in a manner which if proven against him will amount to contempt of court.”
“I hereby summon the said Kennedy Ohene Agyapong per a warrant issued under my hand and seal to appear before the High Court (Land Court 12) on Monday 14th September 2020 at 10 am to show cause why he should not be severely punished for contempt, if the matters are proven against him to the satisfaction of the court.”
BY Gibril Abdul Razak