An injunction application filed by businessman Jonathan Holm against ongoing works at the site designated for the construction of the National Cathedral has been dismissed by the Supreme Court.
Mr Holm had prayed the court to put a freeze on the works ongoing at the site until a substantive case he had filed against the project as far as the acquisition of the property had been determined.
However, the highest court of the land, chaired by Chief Justice Anin Yeboah, dismissed the application.
According to him, the argument by the plaintiff’s lawyer, Mr Bright Akwetey that an injunction would avert the incurrence of cost by the state should the matter go against it, is already taken care of the law.
In December last year, the businessman went to the Supreme Court to challenge the government’s decision to give out land and other forms of support for the building of a national cathedral.
Mr Holm sought to a declaration that the land designated by the President of the Republic for the construction of the cathedral was compulsorily acquired under Section 3 of the Public Lands Ordinance of 1876 (Cap. 134) from the Osu Stool by virtue of Certificate of Title dated November 29, 1910, for residential purposes for public officers and has been used for the public purpose for which it was acquired and, therefore, the user cannot be changed to accommodate the national cathedral, which is not a public purpose or a project in the “public interest” within the meaning of Article 295 of the 1992 Constitution.
Also, he sought a declaration that if the land acquired under the Certificate of Title dated November 29, 1910 for residential purpose is no longer required for the purpose for which it was compulsorily acquired, the Lands Commission is enjoined by virtue of Article 20 (6) of the Constitution to grant the Osu Stool the first option to re-acquire the land is also being sought by the plaintiff.
Joined to the suit as defendants were the Attorney General and the Lands Commission as an entity.
Mr Holm further prayed the court for a declaration that it will constitute a violation of the fundamental rights of the people of Osu to be denied the first option to re-acquire the land under Article 20 (6) of the Constitution if the national cathedral is constructed on the land compulsorily acquired under the Certificate of Title dated November 29, 1910 for residential purposes for public officers.
He also wanted an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the President of the Republic and the Executive from appropriating the land under reference for use to construct a national cathedral, in violation of Article 20(5) and (6) of the Constitution and in breach of the trust expressly created by Section 3 of the Public Lands Ordinance, 1876 (Cap 134) and Article 257 (1) of the 1992 Constitution in respect of lands compulsorily acquired for stated public purposes is also being sought.
The plaintiff further prayed the court to grant an order confirming that the original public purpose for which the land was compulsorily acquired by virtue of the Certificate of Title dated November 29, 1910, is still valid.
“A declaration that there is no law in Ghana that allows the user of any public land compulsorily acquired under Section 3 of the Public Lands Ordinance of 1876 (Cap 134), Section 3 of the Public Lands (Leasehold) Ordinance of 1950 (Cap 138), the State Property and Contracts Act, 1960 (CA6), Section 7 of the Administration of Lands Act, 1962 (Act 123), Section 1 of the State Lands Act, 1962 (Act 125), Section 45 of the Provisional National Defence Council (Establishment) Proclamation (Supplementary and Consequential Provisions) Law, 1982 (PNDC Law 42), for a stated public purpose to be changed from the stated public purpose for which the land was compulsorily acquired to any other purpose not stated in the acquisition instrument unless the original public purpose is varied,” the plaintiff prayed.
The writ, which invoked the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and filed on his behalf by Mr Bright Akwetey, a legal practitioner, also sought a declaration that it constitutes a violation of the Principle of Eminent Domain and also a violation of Article 20 (5) & (6) of the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, as well as all known laws on compulsorily acquisition of land for public purposes in Ghana, for the Executive to take or convert a public land already in use for the stated public purpose for which it was compulsorily acquired for any other purpose not stated in the acquisition instrument.
Apart from Mr Holm’s case against the cathedral, a similar case filed by the Acting General Secretary of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Mr James Kwabena Bonfeh Jr., had also been dismissed by the same Supreme Court in January this year.
In March 2017, Mr Bomfeh Jr. invoked the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, arguing that Ghana was a secular state, and, therefore, it was wrong for the state to be “excessively entangled in any religion or religious practice”.
However, a seven-member panel of justices of the Supreme Court said the case filed raised no legitimate issue requiring enforcement and interpretation.
The court also indicated that the state had not excessively entangled itself in religious activities by supporting the project.
The court thus held that nothing prohibited the government from lending such support to any religious group.