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23.02.2007 Politics

“Let justice prevail, though heavens fall”- Osei K Bonsu

By Public Agenda

The judiciary has been reminded of the need to tenaciously uphold one of its fundamental canons, to wit, to administer justice without fear or favour.

To this end, the judiciary has been exhorted not to give in to the unjustifiable demands of any section of the society that may attempt meddling in the administration of justice in the country.

The majority caucus in Parliament comprising the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and Convention People's Party (CPP), gave this admonition at a news conference when they responded to the Minority's “True State of the Nation 2007” address delivered by their leader, Hon Alban S.K. Bagbin, last week in Accra.

“This country can and must only encourage our judges that they should 'let justice prevail though the heavens fall'. The vast majority of Ghanaians stand by them,” the majority Chief Whip, Hon. Osei
Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, declared.

He recalled that in 1980, the then Chairman of the defunct Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), went to the offices of the Daily Graphic, overturned tables and threatened judges who were handling review cases involving AFRC convicts to discontinue the process else “ there will be an inferno next time”.

“Those were the judges who were abducted and killed under the PNDC. Today, the apostles of that regime are by their conduct threatening the judiciary, “Hon. Kyei-Mensah- Bonsu said.

He said under the NPP administration, the judiciary is on the ascendancy and for the Minority Leader to criticize the judiciary based on mere allegations of interference in the work of the judges by the Chief Justice was most unfortunate.

Following the imprisonment of the Member of Parliament (MP) for Keta and Minister of Trade and Industry in the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration, Hon. Daniel Abodakpi, the NDC minority boycotted Parliament in solidarity with their colleague and failed to turn up when the President, delivered the State of the Nation Address on February 8.

But the minority did not take that lying down. In their 'True State of the Nation Address' on February 14, the Minority accused the ruling NPP of a pernicious attempt not only to demonize the largest opposition party, but the pursuit of an a policy of selective justice in which the judicial process is used to incarcerate as many leading members of the NDC as possible.

“Since then, the conviction of Mallam Issah of the PNC and other NDC personalities like Ibrahim Adam, Kwame Peprah, Dr. George Yankey, and only recently Dan Abodakpi have occurred in the face of even more blatant instances of corruption and serious cases of financial loss to the state under the nose of President Kufuor.”

The minority are therefore calling for the strengthening and resourcing of the judiciary to carry out its constitutional duties. It said the nation, as a whole must consider the possibility of an independent public prosecutor with security of tenure.

Such a prosecutor, the address proposed, must have constitutional authority to institute prosecutions without considerations of political affiliation. “We therefore recommend the separation of the office of the Attorney-General from that of the Minister of Justice”
Article 125(1) of the Constitution provides that “Justice emanates from the people and shall be administered in the name of the Republic by the Judiciary which shall be independent and subject only to this Constitution” and Article 125(2) adds that, “Citizens may exercise popular participation in the administration of justice through the institutions of public and customary tribunals and the jury and assessor systems.”

Similarly, Article 125(3) says, “the judicial power of Ghana shall be vested in the Judiciary, accordingly, neither the President nor Parliament nor any organ or agency of the President or Parliament shall have or be given the final judicial power”.

Besides, the Constitution envisages judicial independence and this captured in unequivocal terms under Article 127 which stipulates that “ In the exercise of the judicial power of Ghana, the judiciary, in both its judicial and administrative functions, including financial administration, is subject only to this Constitution and shall not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority “.

Ghana's Constitution has adequate provisions that seek to guarantee the security of tenure of office of judges of the Superior Court of Judicature and thereby shield them from executive interference.

Article 155(1) provides in part that “…a Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature who has attained sixty years or above, shall, on retiring, in addition to any gratuity payable to him, be paid a pension equal to the salary payable for the time being to a Justice of the Superior Court from which he retired.”

That notwithstanding, Ghanaian judges, at one time or the other, have had cause to complain about the not too conducive conditions under which they work. At a policy forum organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) this year on “Time for Delivery of Judgments or Ruling by the Supreme Courts of Ghana”, Francis Kusi –Appiah, an Appeal Court judge stunned his audience when he revealed that, “Some Appeal Court judges have no chambers and houses to lay their heads, and all these militate against effective work.”

A High Court Judge, Justice Victor Ofoe also regretted government's inability to adequately resource the judiciary, which to him is the most important of the three arms of government.