By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Freetown High Court Judge, Justice Adrian Fisher, has promised to rule on the ongoing matter involving Netpage, producers of Sierra Leone E-passport in the next two weeks.
Some aggrieved citizens, through Lawyer Jessie Munda Jengo, had filed a lawsuit against the Managing Director of Netpage Limited Sierra Leone and Netpage Company producers of Sierra Leone e-passport, on many grounds including allegations of the passport lacking the required features that qualifies it to be an e-passport.
But Lawyer Ransford Johnson, representing Netpage, had filed an affidavit of motion, asking the High Court to strike out the originating motion against his client on three grounds.
Lawyer Johnson had submitted to the court that the contract of his client to produce e-passport went through parliament and was ratified, thus, the contract is a law and his client should not be taken to court.
He argued that the people who took his client to court are strangers and the contract was between his client and the Government of Sierra Leone.
He submitted that the road on which the plaintiffs were trekking is a dangerous one, and that that it could lead to other people taking lots of ratified contracts to court.
Responding to Lawyer Johnson’s affidavit for the originating motion to be stroke out, Lawyer Jengo filed an affidavit in opposite dated 1st September 2023.
He said they also filed a supplemental affidavits dated 13th September, 2023 and the said supplemental affidavit was filed with exhibits including a photocopy receipt which indicates that, the plaintiffs paid their monies directly to Netpage who are the second defendant in the action and submitted that they relied on the entirety of the affidavit.
He said in a bid to harmer home the respondent’s points, the defense lawyer made the judge believes that, when a contract has been ratified, it becomes a law and forms part of the constitution.
He submitted that when a contract is entered into by the government with an independent company, and that said contract gets ratified by parliament, that contract does not become a law.
He further submitted that ratification by parliament signifies that the legislative body has given it formal approval to the contract, but does not elevate the contract to the status of the law or constitutionality.
He further submitted that, bills are the only things that are ratified by parliament and that they become a law.
He argued that bills are different from contract in that a contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties, outlining the rights and obligations of each party.
He said even though his clients didn’t sign the contract, yet they are party to the contract because they are the principals of the Government of Sierra Leone.
He submitted that when such a contract is ratified by parliament, it means the legislative body has reviewed and approved it terms and conditions strictly due to the contract significant or impact on national interest.
He further submitted that the ratification of contract by parliament does not transform it into a law or part of the Constitution, but it only indicates that a legislative body has approved the contract, but it remains an independent agreement governed by law of contract.
He submitted that they were in court for the wrongs that had happened to them as plaintiffs and that the contract remains separate from the legal framework of laws and constitution.
The lawyer argued that the contract was only governed with specific relationship and obligations between the government and the independent company, and that they are regulated by contract law, which is separate from constitutional law or legislation.
He said bills go through stages for them to become law and contract does not go through five stages, adding that the only reason why contracts is taken to parliament that parliament represents the people of Sierra Leone.
He submitted that there is a link between the plaintiffs who are citizens of the country and the government, and that the plaintiffs have a capacity to institute legal action against NETPAGE if the court concludes that the plaintiffs are the sovereign of the state.
In a very short reply by Lawyer Johnson after Lawyer Jengo was done with his submission, he said the plaintiffs had not answered the application and that his colleague didn’t deal with the laws they provided.