Legal Opinion: Ruling on interrogatories

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The Supreme Court just handed down its decision in the matter of an application for permission to serve some questions on the 1st Respondent (EC) for the EC to answer for purposes of the ongoing hearing. Another process that was served on the 1st Respondent was for it to admit the truth of some facts that relate to the petition and the elections in general.

In this piece, we will discuss the decision and look at the strength of the arguments of the parties today.

This piece is not made on behalf of the Petitioner since we are not a member of the legal team and have been cautioned by the Petitioner’s legal team against such unsolicited commentary. However, we have to include readers in the process ongoing by explaining issues and educating on the general principles at play at the Supreme Court. Our hands are therefore not tied concerning the pros and cons of any of the proceedings in court.

We are also mindful of the sanctity of the Supreme Court and the need to allow the Court to deliver its decisions without prejudice.

Now to the real issues. Interrogatories are questions, simply put. They are allowed under order 22 of the High Court rules but as Lawyer Tsikata argued the Supreme Court being the apex court also has all the powers of the High Court and could use the High Court rules to adjudicate. So on that basis, the application could be filed and the obligation to respond activated. The questions are asked on any matter in QUESTION between the parties.

For something to be in question: 1) a fact to which the question relates should have been stated in the pleadings of the Petitioner most importantly to which a denial would have been made by the opposing party or parties. That is what raises the question. A pleading in the Plaintiff’s claim and then denial. If the fact pleaded is admitted then there is no question raised for the Court with the help of the parties to answer.

The Supreme Court dismissed the application obviously because it felt that no question has been raised in the pleadings to warrant the filing of the interrogatories. One thing that caught my attention however was the introduction of a new fact by the Petitioner’s counsel into the case. That is the transmission of the election results by the National Communications Authority (NCA). Nowhere in the petition is it alleged that the NCA transmitted election results and which had adversely affected the Petitioner’s chances of winning the election in anyway. This could form a strong basis for the refusal of the application.

On the issues of admissions, there were no issues also raised. Admissions in a trial are to allow the quick gathering of uncontested facts/evidence for the Court to expeditiously dispose of a case. Admissions are synonymous with leading evidence and in evidence you put your best foot forward. The best form of evidence is documentary. In this regard, the request to admit facts should have been accompanied by authentic official documents that aided the petitioner’s case and which the Respondents could not deny. However, no such attachments were made. The admissions was essentially a reproduction of the averments/allegations in the pleadings which were in contention and only superior evidence could settle their veracity.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court has a discretion in these matters but technically it was an easy task since the applications never raised the stakes.

By
Elikplim Lorlormavor Agbemava

Lawyer