Law Lecturer at Central University College and legal practitioner, Yaw Oppong, says the President breached Article 17 of the Constitution when he honoured a petition to release the Montie 3.
He is of the opinion that although President John Mahama may have acted in accordance with Article 72 that grants him the powers to exercise the prerogative of mercy, he should not have released them.
According to him, the President’s decision to remit the four months jail sentence handed Alistiar Nelson, Godwin Ako Gunn and Salifu Maase (Mugabe), who have come to be known as ‘Montie 3’, flouts another law – Article 17 – which expressly warns against discrimination.
“We need to also bear in mind compliance with Article 17 for example that you shouldn’t by your actions engage in any discriminatory act,” he said.
He was speaking Monday on PM Express on the Joy News channel on Multi TV that discussed President’s decision to remit the sentences of the three after serving a month in jail.
Article 17 defines discrimination as “to give different treatment to different persons attributable only or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, gender, occupation, religion or creed, whereby persons of one description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of another description are not made subject or are granted privileges or advantages which are not granted to persons of another description.”
Following a petition signed by many bigwigs of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) and thousands of grassroots supporters, President Mahama on Monday remitted the sentence given the three known sympathizers of the party.
Godwin Ako Gunn and Alistair Nelson scandalized the court when they threatened to rape and murder judges during a political talk show on a pro-NDC radio station, Montie FM.
Mugabe, moderator of the political talk show, fueled the hate comments according to the court.
The trio believed the Supreme Court did not rule justly when it ordered the Electoral Commission to delete names of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) card registrants from the electoral roll.
The NHIS card had been ruled out as legitimate proof of citizenship by the Court in an earlier ruling.
Speaking on PM Express, Mr Oppong said irrespective of the petition by his party members, he should have allowed the three contemnors to serve their terms.
“Is it the case that at any point in time when a person files a petition with the President that ‘I want you to remit my sentence’ then the President does so?” he asked. On the face of it, the Constitution permits the President to act the way he did, “but we just don’t have to look at the letter of the Constitution alone. The spirit of the Constitution is as important equally [as the letter]”.
In his view, the President should have extend the same mercy to other people servicing jail terms like it is done on July 1.
However, a member of the NDC legal team, Victor Kojogah Adawudu, who was also on PM Express Monday disagreed with Mr Oppong’s submissions.
“This is a special power that has been given to the President. That the President may give reason or may not even give reason. The only limitation on the President is to consult the Council of State,” he said.
According to him, Monday’s decision by the President is markedly different from the July 1 pardoning of jailed criminals who have served at least one-third of their sentence.
Mr Adawudu explained unlike the Montie 3 situation, criminals do not petition to be released.
He insists the whole essence of the President’s remission of the Montie 3 sentence was to demonstrate that the four months jail sentence handed them by the Supreme Court was too harsh.
He said although the Montie 3 action was condemnable, a fine but not custodial sentence would have been appropriate.