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25.07.2002 General News

Panel slams Supreme Court

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Panelists at a symposium on the legality of the Fast Track Courts (FTC) in Accra have called for a constitutional amendment to determine the number of Judges to be appointed to the Supreme Court. The five-member panel comprising legal practitioners said such an amendment would gag the Executive from packing the court arbitrarily and assert the independence of the Judiciary. The symposium was on: “The Fast Track Court Ruling: Lessons Learned And Implications For The Administration Of Justice in Ghana,” was organised by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) in collaboration with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. The panelists disagreed with the Supreme Court’s 10 million-cedi award of cost against the plaintiff, the former GNPC Boss, Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata who disputed the constitutionality of the FTC and won by a 5-4, majority decision of the court last February. They argued that there is no need to award such a cost against Mr. Tsikata since the case was reviewed at the request of the Attorney General and it was neither bogus nor frivolous.” The panelist comprised Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni of the National Democratic Congress and the Minority Spokesman for Constitutional and Legal Matters, Dr Kwasi Prempeh, Director of Legal Policy and Governance of CDD-Ghana and Mr Nene Amegatcher of Okudzeto Chambers. The rest were Nana Asante Bediatuo, a Lawyer and Investment Banker and Mr Yonny Kulendi of Akuffo Addo, Prempeh and Company. They reviewed nine sub-themes that included the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, empanelling of the Supreme Court by the Chief Justice, representation of the Chief Justice by the Attorney General and the accountability of the Judiciary. There was consensus over the need for members of the bench to be accountable and transparent in the discharge of their duties. There was however a divergence of opinion on the legitimacy of the FTC and the authority of the Chief Justice to establish such courts and the empanelling of Judges to decide on constitutional matters. Alhaji Mumuni said the 6-5 decision by the Supreme Court that re-instated the constitutionality of the FTC was a conspiracy between the Executive and the Judiciary to undermine the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary. He said government’s appointment of Justice Dixon Kwame Afreh, who presided over a FTC on the panel for the review, was a clear case of Executive influence over the Judiciary. Alhaji Mumuni argued that the framers of the Constitution were convinced that the law courts should be insulated from the Executive to protect the fundamental rights of the people. He said although the Supreme Court has a review jurisdiction it is wrong to succumb to the case brought before it by the Attorney General since the February ruling over the FTCs should have ended the litigation. Alhaji Mumuni described as absurd the empanelling of a full bench of 11 to sit on the review when the constitutional provisions made it seven. Mr Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, who was among the members of the audience, in a contribution said that the review was constitutional. He cited Mr. Kwame Pianim, a Political Activists and Economists, who invoked the review jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for the first time to reverse an earlier decision barring him from contesting an election as a presidential candidate.

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