03.03.2002 General News

AG directed to use all legitimate means to get SC verdict reviewed

03.03.2002 LISTEN

The Government has directed the Attorney General's Department to use all legal means under the Constitution to seek a review of the Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of the Fast Track High Courts.

Miss Elizabeth Ohene, Minister of State, told newsmen about the government's directive at Coolum, where President John Agyekum Kufuor arrived earlier on Saturday (Australian Time) to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

She said the government was still committed to the computerisation and modernisation of the court system that had made the administration of justice slow.

She said it was the government's firm conviction that anyone, who had misappropriated state funds or had caused unjustifiable loss to the State, should not be allowed to go scot-free.

Miss Ohene said government finds the ruling of the Supreme Court very strange because when the Chief Justice and his delegation met with President John Agyekum Kufuor in February, their main concern was the lack of resources to open up more Fast Track Courts to speed up the administration of Justice.

The Supreme Court by a majority of five to four on Thursday granted a motion brought before it by Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation challenging the constitutionality of the Fast Track Court (FTC). Five of the judges upheld the action, while four dissented.

The five, who granted the motion, were Mrs Justice Joyce Bamford Addo, Mr Justice A. K. B. Ampiah, Mr Justice F. Y. Kpegah, Mr Justice E.D. K. Adjabeng and Mrs Justice Theodore Adzoe.

The Chief Justice (CJ), Mr Justice Edward Kwame Wiredu, Mr Justice George Acquah, Mr Justice William Atuguba and Mrs Justice Sophia A. B. Akuffo dissented.

The CJ, who read the brief judgment said: "by a majority of five to four, plaintiff's action succeeds, relief are hereby granted." The court, however, deferred its reasons for the ruling to Wednesday, March 20.

Tsatsu filed the motion at the Supreme Court on Monday, February 11 seeking constitutional interpretation in respect of the FTC because in his view the "Constitution in making provision for the administration of justice, does not establish any court known as FTC."

He argued that since the FTC was not known to the Constitution, it could not try him. Tsatsu, therefore, prayed the Supreme Court to ensure that on a true and proper interpretation of the Constitution, "any attempt to launch a prosecution in an unconstitutional forum must be prevented through the exercise of the powers of enforcement of the Constitution that are conferred on the Supreme Court."

A day after filing his motion at the Supreme Court, Tsatsu was arraigned at the FTC for wilfully causing financial loss of 2.15 billion cedis to the State.

He allegedly circumvented laid-down corporate objectives of his outfit, when he by-passed the board and on his own, committed the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) to guarantee a loan.

The amount, 5.5 million French Francs was granted by Caise Francaise de Developpement, a French Aid Agency to Valley Farm, a private cocoa-growing company in which GNPC held initial equity shares of 17.39 per cent.

Distressed, Valley Farm defaulted in repayment of the loan and without prior approval of the corporation's board, Tsatsu allegedly paid out of its operational funds, the principal amount plus interest, all totalling 6,919,123. 23 French Francs.

This action of his, adversely affected the financial status of GNPC, hence a loss to the State. After Tsatsu has drawn the FTC's attention to his motion at the Supreme Court, the trial judge, Mr Justice Julius Ansah admitted him to a self-recognisance bail in the sum of 500 million cedis. He adjourned the matter to Monday, March 4 to give the Supreme Court the chance to determine the motion.

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