July 16, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone yesterday (15 July) rejected an application by plaintiff lawyer, Charles Francis Margai, for an extension of time to amend the statement of petition in respect of the constitutional matter between sacked Vice President Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana and Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Franklyn Bai Kargbo and Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh, as first and second defendants, respectively.
The court had granted both parties fiat to amend their case in June but erstwhile plaintiff lawyer, J.B. Jenkins-Johnston, said there was no need to amend, a stance which led to the termination of his service by the plaintiff.
But after picking up the brief, Mr. Margai asked the court for time to amend the statement of case, which hinges on whether the president was right to sack the vice president using his “supreme executive authority”.
However, lawyers for the defendants had objected to the amendment.
And the panel of five judges upheld their objection, thus effectively putting paid to any attempts by Mr. Margai to effectuate much needed amendment, which incidentally was the wish of the plaintiff.
Prior to the reading of the ruling, acting Chief Justice Valesius Thomas apologised to both sides for the delay in giving the ruling on the application, noting that it was due to his poor health condition.
He recalled that on 30th March erstwhile counsel for the plaintiff informed the court he did not intend to amend their case, although on 1st June, the court ordered both sides to do an amendment of their cases. He said former counsel for the plaintiff, Mr. Jenkins-Johnston, submitted a document in court on 4th June to the effect that he would not amend the plaintiff’s statement of case.
He said in his application, Mr. Margai had addressed the court that his predecessor’s refusal to amend the plaintiff’s case was deliberate as the latter had instructed to do so.
However, the acting Chief Justice said that at the time they granted leave for an amendment the plaintiff was in court and there was no evidence in court that counsel and plaintiff were not in good terms, adding that the plaintiff was indeed in court when his counsel refused to amend his case.
He said because the former counsel had submitted in writing to the court that he would not amend his case, the court has no power to nullify such document, thus rejecting the application filed by Mr. Margai for extension of time.
Justice Thomas thus admonished Mr. Margai to continue the matter as filed by the former counsel in the interest of making progress in the substantive matter.
The elected Vice President was sacked on 17 March this year after he was expelled by the ruling party. He appealed but the appeal was dismissed by majority of the party’s delegates in an extraordinary meeting.
He thus seeks an interpretation of relevant sections in the 1991 Constitution as to whether a President, as part of his “Supreme Executive Powers”, has the right to remove him from office without recourse to sections 50 and 51 of the Constitution, which expressly stipulate how a president and his deputy can be removed from office.
The matter was adjourned to 21 July when it is hoped the substantive issues will be argued in court.