There have been a lot of reactions between both the minority and majority after the court ruled that Deputy Speakers could vote and form a quorum while presiding in parliament.
On March 9, 2022, the supreme court ruled that a Deputy Speaker of Parliament presiding over proceedings in Parliament has the right to be counted in decision making and has the right to participate in voting.
The court presided over by Justice Jones Dotse, held that the Deputy Speaker does not lose his right to take part in decision-making upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 103 and 104 of the 1992 Constitution.
The unanimous decision was taken after the court dismissed a writ by a law lecturer, Justice Abdulai, who was challenging the decision of Mr Owusu to be counted as part of the quorum to pass the budget.
The court, therefore, held that the passing of the budget on November 30, 2021 in which Joe Osei Owusu, the First Deputy Speaker counted himself as part of the quorum, was valid.
Also, the court has struck down order 109(3) of the Standing Orders of Parliament which prevented a deputy speaker presiding from voting, as unconstitutional.
This development got some mixed reactions from both the Minority and Majority. Whilst majority members including Deputy Speaker Joseph Osei Owusu deem it as a satisfactory move by the Supreme Court, the minority believes it is judicial interfence on the part of the judiciary.
Some of these reactions were evident through posts on social media.
For the Minority, the court ruling is a judicial interference in time-tested Parliamentary practice and established conventions.
Minority Leader, Haruna Idrissu said the Supreme Court ruling is nothing but a way to show their support for the controversial E-Levy bill before parliament.
Speaking to the media, he said “Our attention has been drawn to a very disappointing ruling of the Supreme Court of Ghana with more or fewer amounts to judicial interference in time-tested Parliamentary practice and established conventions. Everywhere in the world, in civilized democracies including the United Kingdom, the presiding officer’s vote is discounted, so it’s not for nothing that Article 102 provides that ‘a person presiding shall have no original nor casting vote,
“Judicial support for e-levy and nothing more, judicial support for a struggling economy in distress and a judicial support for the restoration of a matter that they have said is constitutional, is repugnant to the provisions of 102 and 104,” he said on March 8.
Member of Parliament for Ningo-Prampram, Sam Goerge also described the judicial system as a ‘sham’.
“The sham called Justice delivery in our Republic. Despicable!” he said in a tweet.
Aside from the above, Sam George also shared a Facebook post, indicating the subject will be dealt with when the house calls for voting, “Abi we all go dey the Chamber inside. Come and give the referee the ball to play some let us see. The sweetness of the pudding is in its eating.”
The Member of Parliament for Sagnarigu, Alhassan Bashir Alhassan Fuseini also described the court decision as politically motivated.
He accused the Supreme Court of reducing “themselves to political appendages”
“We say from the onset that this is a shameful day for our democracy. That is a very farcical, shameful, politically motivated ruling by the Judiciary, the Apex Court of the land,” he noted.
Majority members’ position:
The Majority in Parliament on the other hand believes the Supreme Court ruling vindicates Joseph Owusu’s position on his right to participate in voting and form a quorum while presiding in Parliament.
Joseph Osei Owusu speaks: Joe Wise expressed satisfaction about the SC’s ruling. He says it is an affirmation of his previous positions that he could participate in forming quorum. Also reacting to the comments by the Minority, he said the Minority are entitled to their opinion. “The decision practically affirms the position that I took……I did not participate in the voice vote but I insisted that I be counted as a member of parliament present to constitute the quorum before the decision was taken.
“This decision affirms that position that I took. I find that very refreshing.
“I am very glad that indeed that clarity has been given… the text of the Constitution was very clear and even the Article 109(3) was clear that you shall not retain the original vote whereas in the case of the Speaker it said you shall not have either original or casting vote. When it came to the Deputy Speaker, it said you shall not retain the original vote. The natural consequence was that you would have a casting vote. This decision of the Supreme Court appears to affirm that position that I strongly agreed with,” he noted.
Aside from the Minority and Majority, one key person who has reacted is the petitioner, Justice Abdulai. For him, even though he is happy the portion of the Standing Order that states the Deputy Speaker can’t vote has been struck out, he is not happy with the portion that deals with an officiator being a player at the same time.
Speaking in an interview with GhanaWeb, he said, “I’m happy first of all for the decision and I’m happy for the portions of the Standing Orders that have been struck out. I think overall, the decision is fine but naturally, I’m not happy with the portion that deals with an officiator being a player at the same time. That bit of it I don’t think I am happy with that but I do not have the entire decision yet.
He indicated that he will further peruse the entire ruling by the court after which he will take appropriate steps if he has any other issues.
Background In December 20, 2021, Members of Parliament were engaged in some fisticuffs in the chamber of the House during the voting on the controversial E-levy bill on Monday, December 20.
The MPs were taking votes on whether or not the E-levy should be adopted under a certificate of urgency.
At the time, Joseph Osei-Owusu, who was presiding stated that he was stepping down, the Second Deputy Speaker should take over.
The Minority had earlier contended that per parliament’s standing orders, the Speaker of Parliament does not have a casting vote, however, Joe Osei-Owusu indicated that he would still vote.
Just when he was about to step down for the Second Deputy to take over, the Minority took the stage.
Aside from this day, Joe Wise had already overturned the approval of the 2020 budget while he was presiding, at the time the house had 137 Members in the Chamber including while he presiding.
During the time of voting of which the minority did not show up in the chamber, Joe Wise after counting the 137 added himself to make the total number 138 to approve the budget.
The actions of Joe Wise were what influenced the petitioner to challenge his action at the Supreme Court.