Judge lambasts state attorney for giggling in court

Ashok Kumar Sivaram, embattled Indian businessman

A High Court judge hearing the case of an Indian businessman against the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) last Friday descended heavily on a state attorney for laughing throughout the proceedings.

Mrs Justice Naa Adoley Azu lambasted Ms Jasmine Armah for repeatedly giggling, in spite of several warnings for her to desist.

Ms Armah was representing the Comptroller-General of the GIS, Mr Kwame Takyi, and the Interior Minister, Mr Ambrose Dery, the officials sued by the businessman, Mr Ashok Kumar Sivaram.

“I find your conduct very distasteful. It is not funny that the man is fighting to remain in this country. If you have been an immigrant in another country, you will know that it is not funny. Let us not create the wrong impression because it is very painful,’’ the presiding judge stressed.

Mrs Justice Azu then asked the state attorney to apologise, adding “some judges will find you in contempt of court.’’

Ms Armah apologised and explained that her actions were not meant to undermine the authority of the court or to reduce the case to a joke.

Temporary permit 

Mr Sivaram is seeking a mandamus order for the restoration of his residence and work permits, which were cancelled by the GIS following his deportation on June 1, 2017, on the basis that his deportation was quashed by the Accra High Court on July 31, 2017.

On August 25, 2017, Mrs Justice Azu, ordered the GIS to grant the businessman temporary residence and work permits to afford him a legal status in the country, pending the determination of his mandamus application.

At last Friday’s sitting, counsel for the businessman, Mr Gary Nimako Marfo, argued that the GIS had failed to comply with the court order.

“As of close of business on September 7, 2017, the applicant had not been given temporary work and residence permits as ordered by the court. He was rather given a passport retention slip after he had paid $500 for the purpose of processing the said permits,’’ he said.

In response, Ms Armah explained that the passport retention slip was the GIS’ way of providing Mr Sivaram with a temporary legal status pending the determination of his application as ordered by the court.

“He has a legal status to remain in this country,’’ she said.

Another lawyer representing the GIS, Mr Peter Claver Nantuo, added that with the passport retention slip, “nobody can challenge his legal status to remain in the country’.’

Mr Nimako, however, rejected the submissions of the state attorney and the GIS lawyer.

In his view, the passport retention slip could not constitute temporary residence or work permit.

“It is only an indication that his passport is with the Ghana Immigration Service,’’ he argued.

Mr Nantuo responded by arguing that per the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573), there was nothing like a temporary residence or work permit, but rather, permits with different validity periods.

He told the court that the $500 that Mr Sivaram paid was for the processing of a six-month residence and work permits and the GIS was currently working on them.

The businessman, he explained, must, therefore, appear before the GIS on September 30, 2017 to check up on the status of the application.

After many back and forth arguments lasting for about two hours, Mrs Justice Azu adjourned the case to September 18, 2017, when the substantive application for mandamus would be moved by the businessman’s legal team.