Supreme Court Disappoints SLPPJune 2, 2012
The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone has come down hard on the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) for not properly following the rules in their case against the Chairperson of the National Electoral Commission, Dr. Christiana Thorpe.
In a civil jurisdiction ruling by Hon Justice S. Bash-Taqi, Hon. Justice P.O. Hamilton, and Hon. Justice M.E. T. Thompson in the case between the SLPP & 2 others (applicant/s) and Dr. Christiana Thorpe & another (respondent/s) on Friday May 25 2012, the Court decided that, “It is plain that the applicant failed to comply with rule 35 (1)… Having considered the circumstances and evidence in this matter it is clear to me that the delay in coming earlier or within time or reasonable time is deliberate and it is caused by the applicant and his counsel. I have therefore come to the conclusion that this case is one where the discretion of the court ought not to be exercised in favour of the applicant. In the result the application is refused…”The SLPP was represented by Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbie, while L.M. Farma represented the respondents.
The facts of the case are that on 2nd of May 2011, the Supreme Court granted leave for time-enlargement of an appeal after the Court of Appeal had decided the matter in favour of Dr. Christiana Thorpe. The Notice of Appeal was filed on 3rd May 2011 but was not served on the respondents, a lapse which caused the applicants to go to the Supreme Court on 17th November 2011.
The court however found it unconvincing that a learned legal luminary like Dr. Jabbie would not properly understand the rules of the court with regards the time-frame within which to lodge an application of this nature: “…I cannot fathom how the matters deposed to in paragraph 4 [I.e. constitutional litigation, national party conference preparation, presidential flag-bearer electoral exercises, running-mate selection from end of February 2011 to November 2011] should prevent the applicant from complying with rule 35 (1) having already filed the Notice of Appeal the day after leave was granted. I dare say it is normal practice in our court particularly the Supreme Court that the filing of the Notice of Appeal and service thereof go hand in hand. In my judgment I do not think that compliance with rule 35 (1) of the Supreme Court Rules will in any way affect or obstruct the matters deposed by the applicant in paragraph 4 of the affidavit at all…”
Rule 35 (1) states: “Every appellant shall within seven days after lodging his Notice of Appeal or within such time as the Supreme Court may order serve a copy thereof on the respondent… and shall before service endorse such copies with a certificate of the date of the lodgment of the Notice of Appeal.”
The SLPP’s application was therefore quashed in its case against the Chief Electoral Commissioner. Notwithstanding, the court gave the SLPP the “liberty to apply to the full court.”
Many legal luminaries contacted to respond said the Supreme Court took the right decision. “It could not have been otherwise. The SLPP failed to follow the rules and they put the Supreme Court to the test. And the court rose to the occasion,” a veteran Freetown lawyer said.