Tue, 05 Sep 2023 Feature Article

Don’t Polarize Ghana’s Judiciary

Don’t Polarize Ghana’s Judiciary

The comments and concerns made by the immediate former President of Ghana, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, have the potential to polarize Ghana’s judiciary. The criticisms of the former president suggest the judiciary in Ghana is polarized through appointments made by the current president of Ghana. He accused President Akufo-Addo of packing the judiciary with loyalists of the New Patriotic Party to avoid accountability if the NPP leaves power.

The judiciary plays a crucial role in any democratic society, ensuring the fair and impartial application of the laws of a country. In Ghana, as in many other countries, the independence and neutrality of the judicial system are paramount in upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights of citizens. Yet, recent comments and concerns of the former President and his party about the conduct and practice of the Judiciary appear to damage the integrity of that arm of government and polarize it, thereby eroding public trust in the judicial system.

The legislative and the executive arms of government are already polarized due to the system adopted and used in the political system of Ghana. Thus, the level and nature of political and ideological polarization in Ghana must not be extended to the judicial arm of government. It is a dangerous endeavor that must not be allowed to offer a fertile ground to thrive. A polarized judiciary cannot guarantee and safeguard the rule of law expected from the judicial system. A polarized judiciary risks undermining the rule of law, which is the foundation of any democratic society.

If the judicial system and judges are influenced by political or ideological biases, public trust and confidence in the judiciary will be eroded. The citizens of Ghana must have confidence and trust that they can seek justice without fear of bias or favoritism based on their political affiliations.

Judges and other personnel within the judicial system are usually appointed based on experience and seniority in service. The criticisms of the former president suggest the appointing authority outmaneuvers the appropriate procedure and law in deciding who works in the judicial arm of government. Can the appointor outwit the known procedures to nominate judges and other people to ply their trade in the judiciary without the associations in the service raising concerns about the unfair nature of the appointments? It appears the former president is complaining about the same system and procedures he once operated.

The laws of Ghana established the procedures and processes for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court of Ghana and other lower courts. The Constitution of Ghana, in Article 128 (4), outlines the qualifications and requirements for appointment as a Supreme Court justice. Article 136 (3) indicates that "a person shall not be qualified for appointment as a Justice of the Court of Appeal unless he is of high moral character and proven integrity and is of not less than twelve years’ standing as a lawyer." Article 144 clauses 1, 2, and 3 outline the appointment procedure for the Chief Justice, the other Supreme Court Justices, Justices of the Court of Appeal, and Justices of the High Court, as well as the Chairmen of Regional Tribunals, in which the appointments are done by the President acting in consultation with the Council of State and with the approval of Parliament, or the President acts on the advice of the Judicial Council. The Chairmen of the Regional Tribunals are to be appointed by the President acting on the advice of the Judicial Council. The legal basis for the appointment of the personnel who operate within the judicial system is provided for in the Constitution of Ghana.

The criticisms leveled against President Nana Akufo-Addo with regard to his appointment to the Judiciary currently suggest the Council of State, the Judicial Council, and the Parliament of Ghana have partisan leanings and have lost their impartial sense of judgment or independence in taking decisions on crucial national issues.

The current appointment regime highlights the perception of a partisan appointment procedure and process. If the Chief Justice and the Judicial Council are empowered by the laws of Ghana to appoint persons to the Judicial Service of Ghana, the perception of packing political loyalists may be suppressed or may not be considered real. However, the President is involved in the appointment of the Chief Justice, whose partiality is questioned too.

The Republic of Ghana cannot afford to operate a political system whose arms are all deeply polarized. The former President and his party need to search for solutions to mitigate the public's perception of a seemingly packed judiciary with party loyalists. The NDC leader has a better solution to resolving this difficult situation than to deepen it by appointing party loyalists as promised by the former President.

Emmanuel Kwabena Wucharey
Economics Tutor, Advocate and Religion Enthusiast.

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