September 9, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone yesterday struck out of court a joint petition of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) against the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and a host of officials of government, on the grounds that the plaintiff applicants were not natural or juristic persons in law.
Both opposition parties had filed a motion at the Supreme Court on 24 April, 2014 against Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Franklyn Bai Kargbo; the de facto Vice President, Victor Bockarie Foh; Speaker of the House, Sheku B.B. Dumbuya; Deputy Speaker, Chernoh Maju Bah; Electoral Commissioner North, Macsood Gibril Sesay; Electoral Commissioner South, Augusta Bockarie; and Deputy Minister of Justice, Arrow John Bockarie, on various grounds hinging on alleged constitutional breaches, with the matter presided bya panel of three judges –Justices Nicholas Browne-Marke, Patrick O. Hamilton, and Eku Roberts.
But the trio of judges yesterday struck the case out as they upheld the counter-motion of lawyer for the defendants, Berthan Macaulay Jr., who had submitted that the plaintiffs lacked locus in court as they were not natural or juristic persons.
Reading the judgment, Justice Browne-Marke recalled that Mr. Macaulay Jr. had asked the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone to dismiss the originating motion dated April 24, 2015, filed by the two opposition parties for an interpretation of whether the president has any constitutional right to unilaterally sack his vice president, plus a host of other issues they claimed violate the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.
He said Macaulay Jr. submitted that the plaintiffs are in court in their capacity as registered political parties, thus they lack locus to bring the suit in their respective names, as being registered under the Political Parties Registration Act 2002 does not grant them right to sue or to be sued because such does not automatically grant them corporate legal status.
The learned judged went on to say that lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, Mr. Charles Francis Margai, had counter-submitted that the “plaintiffs are overqualified to be juristic persons under the law”.
Thus, Justice Browne-Marke ruled that because the action before the court was brought in the name of the two political parties instead of persons who are authorised by them, such was procedurally flawed, thus the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter, and accordingly struck the matter out of court with cost.
Meanwhile, while SLPP chairman and leader, Chief Somanoh Kapen was in court, he left without speaking to journalists after the verdict was read. Also, lead counsel and chairman and leader of the PMDC, Mr. Margai briskly left the court after the judge rose, without saying a word.
It remains to be seen though whether the plaintiffs will file a fresh motion as the court did not rule on the merit of the case itself.