Ghana: Is the Supreme Court Assertion on Birth Certificate “Per Incuriam”?

Published: 20/Jul/2020

By Kofi Ata

I have had the opportunity of reading the written judgement of the Supreme Court (SC) in the case of the National Democratic Congress/Mark Banson v the Electoral Commission (EC)/the Attorney General and whilst I agree with most of their decisions and reasons behind them, I am baffled by the assertion that birth certificate (bc) does not establish citizenship. This article is the analysis of the section relating to bc as contained in pages 26 to 28 of the written judgement. Let me put on record that I have no problem with the SC affirming that bc is not acceptable identification document for the purpose of registering to vote because it has never been and therefore customary practice has been established. However, I strongly disagree with the SC that bc does not establish citizenship.

I reproduce the most relevant sections for easy reference. Among the reliefs Mr Banson, the 2nd Plaintiff sought from SC was, “an order directed at the EC to include under Regulations 1(3) of the Public Registration of Voters (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (C I 126) birth certificate as evidence of identification”.

The SC ruled that, “we find no merit whatsoever in the 2nd Plaintiff’s contention. It flies in the face of article 42 of the Constitution and the decision of this court in Abu Ramadan (No 1 and No 2), supra. A birth certificate is not a form of identification. It does not establish the identity of the bearer. Nor does it link the holder with information on the certificate. Quite obviously, it provides no evidence of citizenship. It therefore does not satisfy the requirement of the article 42 of the Constitution. In fact, as a form of identification, it is worse than the NHI card which was held to be unconstitutional evidence of identification of a person who applies for registration as a voter in Abu Ramadan (No 1 and No 2), supra.

My reaction on reading the above was, are these factually correct? My answer is no because a Ghanaian bc issued in 2019 contains the name, date, place of birth and sex of the owner. It also states names, nationalities and religion of both parents, and occupation of father, place and district of issue. Ghanaian bc therefore establishes beyond doubt that the citizen of the owner by “jus sanguinis” (by blood or ancestry), if one or both parents is/are Ghanaian national/s. For these material facts, the above reasons given by the SC are factually incorrect, unreliable and unsafe.

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Themes: Birth Registration, Nationality and Elections
Regions: Ghana
Year: 2020