The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo, has laid the Imposition of Restrictions Bill, 2020 before Parliament.
The bill, which is to back President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo's directives on measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 in Ghana, is intended to provide a legislative framework, in consonance with the Constitution, for the imposition of restrictions as a quick and effective means of intervention to address emergencies.
It is also to provide for power to impose restrictions on persons in the event of disaster, emergency or similar circumstance to ensure public safety and protection, as well as in the interest of defence, public health, among others.
It was laid together with a copy of the Executive Approval letter dated March 18, 2020 to prove that the President had granted an Executive approval for the bill to be laid before the House under a certificate of urgency.
After the laying of the bill, the Second Deputy Speaker, Mr Alban Bagbin, referred it to the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for consideration and report to the House.
He said the bill was very important and it was critical members of the House paid attention to it and ensure that “we have a very harmonious debate on this matter”.
“So leadership should take control and get as many as people as possible to be part of the consideration of the bill, even though it has been referred to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
“By our Parliament Orders, any member of Parliament can attend the sitting of any committee,” he said.
A memorandum accompanying the bill stated that in view of the foregoing, the government found it expedient to develop a legal framework to provide generally for expeditious interventions by the government, in the event of unforeseeable emergencies.
“The bill recognises the general fundamental freedoms guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, but also takes cognisance of the fact that the exercise of the right to the general fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution is subject to laws that are reasonably required, among others, in the interest of public safety and public health, as provided for in paragraphs (c), (d) and (e) of Clause (4) of Article 21 of the Constitution.
“Paragraphs (c), (d) and (e) of Clause (4) of Article 21 of the Constitution provides that (4) Nothing in, or done under the authority of, a law shall be held to be inconsistent with, or in contravention of, this article to the extent that the law in question make provision:“(c) for the imposition of restrictions that are reasonably required in the interest of defence, public safety, public health or the running of essential services, on the movement or residence within Ghana of any person generally, or any class of persons; or “(d) for the imposition of restrictions on the freedom of entry into Ghana, or of movement in Ghana, of a person who is not a citizen of Ghana; or “(e) that is reasonably required for the purpose of safeguarding the people of Ghana against the teaching or propagation of a doctrine which exhibits or encourages disrespect for the nationhood of Ghana, the national symbols and emblems, or incites hatred against other members of the community; except, so far as that provision or as the case may be, the thing done under the authority of that law is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in terms of the spirit of this Constitution.”
Contributing referral of the Bill, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said he was of the view that under Article 106 (2) of the Constitution it was for the Speaker to direct the committee to determine whether the Bill was of an urgent nature.
“The Bill, as being presented, did not meet the minimum Constitutional requirement of Article 106 (2).”
Responding, the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, told the House that the Minority Leader was partially right because Article 106 (2) required that Bills that went to Parliament should be gazetted for a 14-day period.
“Now this Bill does not meet that requirement of the 14 days but government in recognising the emergency of the time had not yet gazetted so it comes to us.
“When it comes to us, the relevant provision now will be article 106 (13). So with the referral made to the committee, it needs as a matter of urgency to determine that indeed it is off urgent nature. If it is then it goes for gazetting then the debate period will run concurrent to the period when the committee will be considering the Bill.”
Last Sunday, President Akufo-Addo, in a late evening address, directed that all public gatherings be banned for the next four weeks in response to the confirmation of more coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country.
To provide legal backing for the measures, the President said: “I have directed the Attorney-General to submit a legal bill to Parliament Emergency Legislation, in accordance with Article 21 (4)(c) and (d) of the Constitution of the Republic to embody these measures.
“And I further direct the Minister of Health to exercise his powers under Section 169 of the Public Service Act, 2012 (Act 851) by the immediate issuance of an Executive Instrument to govern the relevant proffers.”
Source: Daily Graphic
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