Center for Democratic Development (CDD) Ghana Fellow on Law and Justice Prof Kwaku Asare says the Supreme Court cannot tell Parliament how to run its affairs.
This is his reaction to a Supreme Court Judgement that declared that a Deputy Speaker reserves his voting rights despite presiding over parliamentary proceedings.
Read his full reaction below:
Consider Order 225, which provides that “The Chairman [of a Committee] shall not have an original vote, but in the event of an equality of votes he shall give a casting vote.”
Can the Supreme Court declare the order unconstitutional because it deprives the Chairman, therefore his constituents, of an original vote?
I think not! Nor can the Court, in my opinion, invalidate the casting vote because it makes the Chairman a sole appellate judge of the committee’s decisions.
In this regard, I agree with Justice Sowah, in the oft-cited but hardly understood Tuffuor case, when he says “that the law and custom of Parliament is a distinct body of law and, as constitutional experts, do
put it, “unknown to the courts.” And therefore the courts take judicial notice of what has happened in Parliament. The courts do not, and cannot, inquire into how Parliament went about its business.”
Parliament and the Courts are coequal branches of government and neither can tell the other how to run its affairs.
If Parliament, in its wisdom and consistent with the rules applicable to the Speaker, decides that a Speaker pro tempore should not take part in debates, vote, or should not caucus with his party on a matter pending while he presides, it is not for any Court to inquire into it just as it is not for Parliament to inquire into how Justices are chosen to sit on cases at the SC or why some cases are disposed of with expediency and others seem to disappear into oblivion.
Nor am I impressed by the argument that because a Speaker Pro Tempore represents a constituency, it is impermissible for him to be denied a vote while presiding.
The Constitution itself makes provision for denying MPs the vote under certain circumstances. For instance, Article 104(5) provides that “A member who is a party to or a partner in a firm which is a party to a contract with the Government shall declare his interest and shall not vote on any question relating to the contract.”
Just as Article 104(5) denies an MP the vote because of the clear conflict of interest, Parliament can reasonably demand that a Speaker Pro Tempore not be allowed to vote, debate, or act as a biased umpire.
To reason otherwise, is to invite the MPs to treat a Speaker Pro Tempore as an ordinary MP, not entitled to the respect and courtesies that are due to the office of the Speaker.
Overruling the standing order that requires the Speaker Pro Tempore to act as an unbiased umpire with no vote makes a mockery of Tuffuor and could very well be a Pyrrhic victory of style over substance.
SALL is the cardinal sin of the 8th Parliament.