We asked EC to delete ‘NHIS names--Justice Dotse

A Supreme Court judge, Mr Justice Jones Dotse, has said the court was clear in asking the Electoral Commission (EC) to remove the names of voters who got on the register with National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards. 

In what looks like a clarification of the court’s May 5 ruling,  Mr Justice Dotse, who insisted he was not interpreting the ruling, said: “We (Supreme Court) said the use of the NHIS, therefore, was unconstitutional and they (EC) should take steps to take the opportunity to clean the register of those undesirable persons.”

He told journalists yesterday on the fringes of a training programme for judges and magistrates on CI 91, the law that regulates the 2016 elections, that the Supreme Court was forthright and clear that the “use of NHIS cards was unconstitutional because the criteria for the use of the NHIS card was not based on Ghanaian citizenship but only on residence in Ghana”.

The Supreme Court judge’s comments come on the heels of the decision by the EC not delete the names of such persons because its interpretation of the ruling did not mean the court directed it to remove the names of those who registered with NHIS cards.

It is rare for judges to comment on cases they have given judgement on.

Mr Justice Dotse was a member of the Supreme Court panel that directed the EC to clean the register and also ensure that those whose names would be deleted were not disenfranchised. 

“We also did not want to disenfranchise anybody and so the Supreme Court went on to say that anybody who would be affected by that exercise should be given an opportunity to register, according to the law and the Constitution, period; that is it,” he said.

Asked about his thoughts on the EC’s position, he emphasised his determination not to interpret the court’s ruling outside the courtroom, saying, “I don’t want to interpret it, but if anyone feels aggrieved, they should come back to the court.”

Already, one of the plaintiffs in the case, a former National Youth Organiser of the People’s National Convention (PNC), Mr Abu Ramadan, has indicated that he will go back to the court to press contempt charges against all seven commissioners of the EC.

Mr Justice Dotse’s comment may be interpreted as a shot in the arm for Mr Ramadan to go back to the court.

Background
The Supreme Court had, earlier on July 30, 2014, ruled unanimously against the use of NHIS cards as a form of identification to register voters for national elections, thereby restraining the EC from allowing people to use the said cards.

That was after Mr Ramadan and Mr Evans Nimako had gone to the court to seek a perpetual injunction restraining the EC  from using NHIS cards  as an identity card for voter registration.

The two were seeking a true and proper interpretation of Article 42 of the Constitution in relation to the use of NHIS cards as proof of qualification to register as a voter pursuant to public elections.

Subsequently,the two again went to the Supreme Court and asked it to nullify the 2012 voters register and compel the EC to compile a new one.

They sued the EC and the Attorney-General for a declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 45 (a) of the 1992 Constitution, the mandate of the EC to compile the register of voters implied that the EC had a duty to compile a reasonable, accurate and credible register.

They also sought a declaration that the current voters register, which contains the names of persons who have not established qualification to be registered, was not reasonably accurate or credible and was, therefore, inconsistent with Article 45 (a) of the Constitution, thereby making same unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect.

The two further prayed the court to declare that the current voters register, which contains the names of persons who are deceased, was not reasonably accurate or credible and was, therefore, inconsistent with Article 45 (a) of the 1992 Constitution, thereby making same unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect. 

Supreme Court decision
In a unanimous decision on May 5, 2016, the Supreme Court declined to declare the current voters register null, void and unconstitutional.

It, however, directed the EC to delete the names of voters who were not eligible, deceased persons and minors from the voters register.

It said although CI 72 was declared unconstitutional in 2014 by the same court, registered voters should be given the opportunity to register with acceptable forms of identification after their names had been removed from the current register.

In its ruling, the court held that it would be unfair to allow persons who registered in 2012 with NHIS cards to be disenfranchised without any process being put in place to ensure that they exercised their constitutional right to vote, particularly when the affected persons registered legally.

The decision was widely interpreted by some legal and political brains to mean that the names of voters who registered with NHIS cards as proof of their citizenship would be deleted from the register.

Court affirmed EC’s position?
But the EC said the judgment of the Supreme Court affirmed the commission’s consistent position on the status of the current voters register and the mechanisms for cleaning it to make it acceptable to all stakeholders.

“The EC remains willing and committed to ensuring a clean register prior to the elections, in accordance with the law,” it explained in a statement.

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