Mr. Speaker, I have a dilemma. My fervent heart desire is to go the civil court to reclaim my integrity. I’m, however, aware of the challenges one has to battle with in any litigation involving a sitting member of parliament. But Mr. Speaker, you have the power to permit service of court processes on a sitting member … I crave your indulgence to assist me to ventilate my grievance in court…” That was MP for Bekwai who is also First Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Appointments Committee speaking to the world on the floor of Parliament on Tuesday. The media seemed to agree on a single headline “Mr. Speaker, please allow me sue Ayariga”. Joseph Osei Wusu reminded all that he has been a Lawyer for a couple of decades. That was my biggest worry. How does a lawyer of many years standing at the Bar give such erroneous impression no matter how unintended to suggest to citizens that MPs may be above the law?
Ladies and gentlemen of democratic Ghana of the rule of law, MPs don’t and you also don’t require permission from anybody to sue an MP. They are not immune from any judicial process in Ghana, criminal or civil. Yes, in Chapter ten of the Constitution, they enjoy some privileges and immunities, but these are never absolute and do not include the requirement of permission from any quarters whatsoever before they may be subjected to criminal or civil prosecutions.
What the Constitution grants is that: “Civil or criminal process coming from any court or place out of Parliament shall not be served on, or executed in relation to, the Speaker or a member or the clerk to Parliament WHILE he is on his way to, attending at or returning from, any proceedings of Parliament.” Emphasis added. This is no immunity from service of court processes or prosecution. MPs don’t go about the work of parliament 24/7 and all year. Let an MP misguide himself and elect to hide under this and see what might happen to his bank accounts or assets on his “blindside”. There is something called substituted service of civil processes. Recently a judge granted me leave to serve court processes via facebook, email, etc and we know our courts have even allowed service via whatsapp.
So, will an MP seek leave of the Speaker to sue a colleague who trespasses on their property or not call police if they come under threat of harm or death? If you want to sue, please sue. Again, the Constitution says: “There shall be freedom of speech, debate and proceedings in Parliament and that freedom shall not be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.” Emphasis added. This means, generally, that for as long as the 3000.00 Cedi per minority member of the appointments committee bribery allegation against him (Mr. Osei Wusu) and others were made on radio and not on the floor or parliament, one may sue on them. Those affected can sue in tort to protect their reputations, and the internal probe can go hand in hand with such cum criminal prosecution, because giving or accepting a bribe is a criminal offence.
February 4, 2017
Author: Samson Lardy ANYENINI