Brief of Republic v. The High Court (Ex Parte Zanetor)

Brief of Republic v. The High Court (Ex Parte Zanetor) by Legum

Republic Vrs High Court (General Jurisdiction) Accra; Ex-parte Dr. Rawlings (J5 19 of 2016) [2016] GHASC 18 (19 May 2016)

Material Facts:

After the NDC primaries, the applicant, Dr. Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings, was elected parliamentary candidate for the NDC for the Klottey-Korle constituency. Following a court action by the candidates who lost to the applicant, the High Court held that the applicant ought to have been a registered voter at the time of her contest in the primaries. The applicant applied for a writ of certiorari to quash the judgement of the High Court on grounds that the Justice of the Court wrongfully assumed jurisdiction to interpret and define the scope of application of article 94 (1) (a) of the 1992 Constitution.


1. Whether the Justice of the High Court should have stayed proceedings and referred to the Supreme Court for the interpretation of article 94(1)(a).

2. When can it be properly said that a Ghanaian citizen is by reason of non-registration as a voter "not qualified to be a member of Parliament” within the meaning of Article 94(1)(a) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.


1. The Justice of the High Court should have stayed proceedings.

2. A Ghanaian citizen is not qualified to be a Member of Parliament if he, at the time of filing his nomination with the Electoral Commission , is not qualified to to be a Member of Parliament.

Ratio Decidendi:

In a four-one majority ruling, the Justices believed that there was the need to interpret if article 94 (1) (a) meant that a candidate in a parliamentary primary also needed to be a registered voter before being eligible for the primaries or if the provision of being a registered voter only applied to the general elections. The Justices believed that the High Court Justice had erred when he adopted a particular interpretation of article 94 (1) (a) despite the ambiguity. Since the Supreme Court has the exclusive jurisdiction to interpret the constitution, the matter ought to have been referred to the Supreme Court per article 130(2).

On the second issue, Benin JSC stated that

it is our view that the eligibility criteria set out in article 94(1)(a) come into force only when a public election of a Member of Parliament has been declared by the Electoral Commission and it has set the time to file nominations. Thus, a person who qualifies to enter Parliament must be a Ghanaian citizen, of twenty one years or beyond and a registered voter as at the time he files his nomination papers within the time stipulated by the Electoral Commission for that particular election.That is the true intendment of Article 94(1)(a) of the Constitution/ the eligibility criteria come alive from time to time when the Electoral Commission sets the date to file nominations for parliamentary election

Thus, the eligibility criteria do not come alive at the time of the election or swearing-in of the winner of the election, but at the time a candidate files his nomination with the Electoral Commission.