Appeal Court sets aside ruling of Human Rights Court on M&J

The Court of Appeal on Thursday set aside the ruling of the Human Rights Court last year, prohibiting the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) from investigating bribery allegations against six public officials.

The officials were implicated in the Mabey and Johnson (M&J) case.

The Court said after carefully examining the video tapes, documents and appeal processes, it found that there was no evidence that the comments made by the then Commissioner Mr Justice Emile Short could lead to bias.

The Court was of the view that Mr Short was not synonymous with CHRAJ.

Even if there was any likelihood of bias shown by him, other commissioners could investigate the allegation, it said.

The Court said the comments of Mr Justice Short on television were from a document before him which suggested that the money given to the six officials was bribe and that those comments were not the conclusion of Mr Short.

The Court did not award any cost because, it said, the case was of public interest.

The six officials are Mr Kwame Peprah, Ahaji Baba Kamara, Alhaji Boniface Abubakar Sadique, Alhaji Amadu Seidu, Brigadier- General Lord Attivor and Dr Ato Quarshie.

The six were said to have been given various sums of money by the British Company, Mabey & Johnson.

CHRAJ had argued in its appeal that the Human Rights Court did not apply the test of the rule on bias.

The panel was made up of Mr Justice G.M. Quaye, Mr Justice Yaw Appau, and Mr Justice Dennis Adjei.

The Human Rights Court (Fast Track Division) on June 11, 2010 restrained CHRAJ from continuing with its investigations and hearings into the alleged Mabey and Johnson bribery scandal.

Granting an order of prohibition, the court ruled that it was wrong for the Commissioner, Mr Justice Short to have granted the interview on Metro TV while the matter was pending before the Commission.

It therefore upheld arguments by lawyers of the six persons who were the subject of the investigations that comments by the Commissioner of CHRAJ on Metro TV on the matter were prejudicial.

Mr Short granted the television station an interview on the issue a few days after opening public hearings – bedevilled by persistent objections – into the allegations that the six persons received bribes from M & J, a United Kingdom Engineering and Construction firm to influence award of contracts to the company.

The six people filed an order of prohibition arguing that Mr Justice Short and the Commission had lost the moral authority to conduct the investigations as they could not grant a fair and impartial hearing into the matter.

Dr George Sipa Yankey did not join the other six in the suit.

In an ex-parte application with a supporting affidavit, they said prohibiting CHRAJ from investigating the scandal would give meaning to the assertion that justice should not only be done but should be seen to be manifestly done.

They said the jurisdiction of CHRAJ to investigate them was not exclusive as there were other constitutional bodies which had the right and mandate to investigate them.

According to them, CHRAJ would be very biased if it was not restrained from any further investigations and or public hearing in the alleged scandal now pending before it.

They said it was most unprofessional for a judicial or quasi judicial official such as Commissioner Short to discuss his views in a case before it with a third party during a panel discussion on television.

Source: GNA

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