The Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill, 2019 which was passed into law Monday, will undergo minor changes, Chairman of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament has said.
Ben Abdallah Banda said the move is to enable Parliament to make some slight improvements to the bill which is awaiting presidential assent.
“It is just a minor error that we want to correct,” he told JoyNews correspondent, Kwesi Parker-Wilson, Wednesday. These minor corrections he added, have to do with the sanction regime included in the Bill.
The purpose of the law is to disband political party vigilante groups and forbid acts of vigilantism in the country, following the continuous violence that has characterised the country’s by-elections.
By-elections in Atiwa, Akwatia, Chereponi, Talensi, Amenfi West and more recently, Ayawaso West Wuogon, have all been marred by acts of violence.
The law applies to persons who participate in the activities of a vigilante group that is associated, related, connected or affiliated to a political party, political party officials, or a political party member.
It also applies to persons who act as land guards and those who engage in other acts of vigilantism.
A person who fails to comply with provisions of the law commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than 15 years.
Similarly, a person who violates the provisions will be liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than fifteen years.
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Mr. Banda said the current sanction regime means anyone who is convicted for violating the law cannot contest any election to gain access to any party office or into the public service.
“The original rendition in the bill was to the effect that a person can be convicted and sentenced for five years but that is not in line with the relevant provision of the constitution. Because the constitution says that before you could be disqualified, then you should have been sentenced for 10 years and you should have served the 10-year sentence and you can only contest for any elections 10 years after the sentence has expired.”
The bill, in view of this, needs enhancement in the sentencing regime – from five years to 10 to bring it in line with the constitutional requirements, he said.
He added that the decision does not mean Parliament is rescinding its decision on the passage of the bill. The move will only affect the third reading of the bill.
The third reading stage of a bill is that stage at which MPs decide whether a bill should be adopted.
“The House is rescinding its decision for the third reading…it is not anything serious or grave,” he stated.