30.08.2010 Feature Article

Removing a Chief Justice

Removing a Chief Justice
30.08.2010 LISTEN

Just as there are many ways of killing a cat, so also, should there be many ways of removing a Chief Justice (any Chief Justice) of the Republic of Ghana.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, in Ghana, there is only one recognised and accepted legal and constitutional way of taking that drastic step.

Article 146 clearly states the grounds and the procedure for removing the Justices of Superior Courts, and Chairman of Regional Tribunals. That includes the Chief Justice.

Under that Article, each of the above-mentioned categories of Justices of the Superior Courts and Chairmen of Regional Tribunals, can be removed only on the grounds of (a) stated misbehaviour, or (b) incompetence, or (c) inability to perform the functions of his office, arising from infirmity of body or mind.

What is the procedure? The President of the Republic of Ghana must receive a petition for the removal of the Chief Justice. The 1992 Constitution does not specify which individual or group can present the petition to the President.

When the President receives the petition, he must, acting in consultation with the Council of State, appoint a committee, consisting of two Justices of the Supreme Court, one of whom shall be appointed Chairman by the President, and three other persons who are not members of the Council of State, nor members of Parliament, nor lawyers..

Once again, apart from the excluded categories, the Constitution does not state who the three nominated committee members should come from.

All proceedings under Article 146 shall be held in camera (in secret). The Chief Justice, the subject of the petition, is entitled to be heard in his own defense, by himself, or by a lawyer, or other expert of his choices.

Where the President has referred the petition against the Chief Justice to the committee, he (the President) may, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, suspend the Chief Justice. At any time, the President may revoke the suspension order.

After the committee has presented its report, the President shall act in accordance with the recommendations of the committee. To the best of my knowledge, the constitution does not state that a Chief Justice can appeal against any adverse findings made by the committee. Perhaps the lawyers can advise us.

These are the grounds and the procedure for the constitutional and legal procedures for removing a Chief Justice. Except for one or two variations, the grounds and the procedures also apply to the other Justices and Chairman of Regional Tribunals.

Of course, people bent on having their way in the matter, may resort to extra- constitutional and extra-legal means of removing the Chief Justice. He could be murdered.

Mrs. Georgina Wood is the current Chief Justice of Ghana, the first woman to be appointed to the high, responsible, demanding and prestigious office, in this country.

Her appointment met with near universal acclaim. I said, 'near Universal acclaim' for a very good reason.

At Mrs. Wood's 60th birthday celebration, the then Acting Chief Justice, Mr. F.K. Kpegah, was full of praise for her. He said, among other encomiums, 'Georgina, I offer you my shoulder to lean on, though I am not physically strong. '(THE CHRONICLE. JUNE 11, 2007) The 'Chronicle' further reported Mr. Justice Kpegah as 'emphatically saying that Her Ladyship was not chosen because she is feminine, but was nominated by the President because she merits the job by dint of her stature in job performance over the past period spanning three decades.'

The 'Daily Graphic' of Tuesday, June 12,2007, quoted Mr. S. Tetteh, the then President of the Ghana Bar Association, as saying of Mrs. Wood, 'she deserves it, and as I will not say the President gave it to her because of her sex, but because she is very capable.'

Mr. Tetteh went on, 'The new Chief Justice is known to have a firm hand on whatever she sets out to do, and I am confident that with the encouragement and support or the Bar, the good image of the Judiciary will be restored.'

Of course, not everybody was enthused about the appointment. Honorable E.T. Mensah reportedly grumbled about the short time (in his view) given to the Vetting Committee to vet the nominee.

A more serious castigation of the Vetting Committee and reservations about the appointment came from one Mr. Larry Alan Dogbey, whose article was published in THE ENQUIRER of June 6-7, 2007.

The title of his article was, GEORGINA WOOD VETTING, with the sub-title, HOW BLAY AND OTHERS FAILED. The 'Blay' referred to Honorable Freddie Blay, who chaired the Vetting Committee.

First, to Mr. Dogbey, the Vetting Committee should have questioned Mrs. Wood, as to why she failed to call the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, to her committee when his name was mentioned.

Secondly, he faulted the Vetting Committee for not asking her why she failed to locate the 77 parcels of cocaine.

Thirdly, he criticised the Vetting Committee for failing to question her on her views about the death penalty.

Fourthly, Mr. Dogbey faulted the Vetting Committee for failing to ask her about a case in which an 'ailing' (his own word) Mr. Justice T. K. Adzoe had issued a writ against Mr. Justice George Kinsley Acquah, the late Chief Justice, over his (Mr. Justice Acquah's) attempt to remove him (Mr. Justice Adzoe), and why the case had not been heard by the time of Mr. Justice Acquah's death. It is obvious that what started as a trickle of opposition to Mrs. Wood's appointment has now developed into a flood of personal hatred for her.

In spite of the glowing testimony of Mr. Justice Kpegah and Mr. Tetteh, there are those who can still say that Mrs. Wood's appointment was not on merit, but was a reward for doing the bidding of ex-President J.A. Kufuor.

In the past two weeks or so, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has not left the least doubt in everybody's mind that it is baying for the blood of the Chief Justice, and it will stop at nothing, fair or foul, to cut her down and drink her blood, that is, get her thrown out of office.

Her sins, according to the party, include not purging the judiciary of unsavory, pro-New Patriotic Party (NPP) judges, hobnobbing with NPP lawyers so that the government would continue to lose cases against NPP people, apologising to taxi drivers, setting up a court to hear a case on a public holiday, contrary to the public Holiday Act, etc.

They say only the President can grant special permission for people to work on holidays, and that, therefore, she had usurped the powers of the President.

Let no one dismiss the threat posed to the Chief Justice and the Judiciary. There is the shocking and shameful record of courts being closed down, and three High Court Judges and a retired Army Officer being abducted and cold-bloodedly murdered.