Case: New Patriotic Party v Inspector-General of Police (1993)

Summary of the Judgement: New Patriotic Party v Inspector-General of Police (1993) by Hayfron-Benjamin JSC

In February 1993 the plaintiff, the New Patriotic Party, wanted to hold several rallies for peaceful demonstration and commemoration. They asked for and received permission by the local officials. However, the police withdrew those permits and on one occasion arrested several members of the demonstration for holding a public meeting without permission. However, the Constitution of 1992 and especially article 21(1)(d) grants the fundamental right to “freedom of assembly including freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations” to every citizen. The plaintiff referred to this constitutional right and filed a writ to the Supreme Court claiming a violation of it by the acts of the police.

It was the Supreme Court’s task then to determine whether parts of NRCD 68, namely section 7, 8, 12 and 13, contravene to the Constitution of 1992 and are therefore null, void und unenforceable.

Giving reference to precedent cases from the United States Supreme Court, Justice Hayfron-Benjamin examined each section in question individually. He made it very clear that the Constitution requires the strict adherence of human rights and that it is anticipated that every effort must be made to uphold the dignity of man in the interest of peace and stability. The defense nevertheless argued that permissions to public meeting and the power to withdraw or deny them were necessary for a proper performance of policemen duties.

Weighing up, Justice Hayfron-Benjamin stated that upholding the sections in question of the Public Order Decree would impose incredible amounts of power on policemen. Constitutional rights should not be limited by Acts and Decrees but find the limits in the Constitution itself. Therefore he suggests interpretung article 21(1)(d) in a way that public meetings must be lawful and must not be against ‘public order’. Hayfron-Benjamin thought that there was scope for this wide interpretation.

Concluding Hayfron-Benjamin declared that the right to assemble, process or demonstrate cannot be denied and the sections of NRCD 68 which formed the basis of the plaintiff’s writ are unconstitutional, void and unenforceable. Therefore, the plaintiff’s writ succeeded.