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The Supreme Court has stopped an Accra High Court judge from hearing a contempt case against the governing party’s MP, Kennedy Agyapong.
In a judgement delivered Wednesday, the five-member panel, presided over by Justice Baffoe-Bonnie, ordered the registrar to assign a new judge.
Kwame Gyan who is legal counsel for the MP argued the judge, Amos Wuntah Wuni, had demonstrated hostility towards their client.
He referred to the judge’s comment in court that ‘if you touch a live wire it will electrocute you.’
Legal counsel for the NPP MP argued that the judge who was not the target of the alleged contemptuous comment still wanted to sit on the matter and appeared to have an extra interest in a matter, which the lawyers said, did not concern him.
Photo: Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie
The Supreme Court also ordered a restart of the case at the High Court but maintained the charges should hold.
The judgement given by the court generally satisfies the requests of the legal counsel for the NPP MP. It had asked for an order to “quash the totality of the proceedings on the ground of unlawful jurisdiction.”
Kennedy Agyapong, previously banned by media houses for loose comments, had been hauled before the Accra High Court after he insulted a judge on his TV network, Net2 TV.
Deputy Attorney-General, Godfred Dame, stated categorically, that the NPP MP Kennedy Agyapong scandalised the court when he insulted a judge.
“….the words clearly scandalised the court” Mr. Dame said at the Supreme Court hearing an application to determine which court has jurisdiction to hear the case.
The deputy A-G argued that the High Court judge, Amos Wuntah Wuni, could hear the case. Referencing section 15 of the Courts Act, he said “it comes clear that once the High Court is honest, any judge can call the person before it.”
For comments made on his TV station Net 2 TV, the Assin Central MP was charged with insulting a judge, scandalising the court and bringing the court into disrepute.
Kennedy Agyapong has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The MP’s legal counsel have insisted that the Land Court 12 of the High Court which summoned him did not have jurisdiction.
His legal counsel have argued that the judge who summoned him, Amos Wuntah Wuni, was not the one the MP insulted.
The MP’s affidavit stated that his insults were directed at the Labour Court 2 judge. He has since apologised to the judge publicly.
“The words uttered which I deem uncomplimentary and I have since apologized were not directed at the Court, presided over by His Lordship Amos Wuntah Wuni, the Court is not seized with jurisdiction to order the applicant to appear and to answer why he should not be severely punished for contempt of court,” the MP said in his affidavit in support.
He wanted the court to suspend sitting on the case as they had filed a motion at the Supreme Court with the hearing slated for October 13.
The MP’s lawyers were demanding the court halts hearing the case till the Supreme Court rules on the matter.
However, the High Court judge, Amos Wuntah Wuni, disagreed.
“So the court should not do anything when the case is almost a month away. Your client is simply coming here to explain why he said all those scandalous things.
“The court has the right, power and courage to punish anyone who scandalises its name. The law is the law. If you hold a live wire with your bare hands you will be electrocuted,” judge Wuni held.
The case had been ongoing until Wednesday’s judgment ended any prospect of the High Court judge, Justice Amos Wuni, delivering a judgement on the matter.
The first Supreme Court hearing on the Kennedy Agyapong contempt case
When the case was called at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the presiding judge, Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie spotted an error in the application to the court.
The bench argued that the application should have been filed citing the Registrar of the Accra High Court and not the Judicial Secretary.
Kwame Gyan who is counsel for the beleaguered MP, however, tried to argue that that was the procedure. The panel of judges would not barge.
“This is a court pf precedence. Concede the error and draw our attention to the fact that notwithstanding, we should proceed with the case,” the judge urged.
Mr Gyan agreed.
“I promptly concede, we should have proceeded against the Registrar,” he said.
The judges urged the lawyers to fix the error in its application as the general public was eager to hear the apex court’s ruling on the said matter.
Having agreed, Justice Baffoe-Bonnie asked the deputy Attorney-General, Godfred Yeboah Dame if he would be willing to represent the Registrar.
“I don’t have any problem at all representing the Registrar of the High Court,” Mr Dame indicated.
The deputy A-G was asked to study the affidavit on record and argue the case on the next adjourned date. The case is set to continue on October 14, 2020.
Other justices on the panel include; Yaw Appau, Gabriel Pwamang, Issifu Omoro Tanko Ampadu and Yonny Kulendi.
Sentencing for contempt is largely at the court’s discretion. In the July 2016 case against three NDC activists who insulted and denigrated the chief justice, they were sentenced to four months in prison.
Mr Agyapong’s scandal of trials
Kennedy Agyapong, a businessman and an NPP financier, has a history of making scandalous comments.
He has shown he is not allergic to defamation suits. He was sued by Ivy Heward-Mills, wife of a late NPP MP. In the suit filed in January 2019, the widow asked for 50million cedis.
A retired Chief State Attorney, Ellen C. Kwawukume, also brought a GH¢25 million defamation suit in September 2018.
In May 2020, a former government appointee, Joseph Yamin, sued controversial NPP MP, Kennedy Agyapong for defamation and has asked for GH¢95 million.
Many of these cases have not been concluded. But in a case that has come closest to completion, the Accra High Court gave veteran journalist, Mr. Kweku Baako, victory in a defamatory suit he filed against Mr Agyapong.
The MP is to pay him GHc 100,000 in damages. But Mr. Agyapong has appealed the judgment and hearing has not been concluded.
Last February, Parliament reprimanded the Assin Central MP after he was found guilty by the Privileges Committee for calling the House cheap and useless.
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