There is much sense in the old African statement that the man or body which has the power to determine whether or not others can exercise their natural right to breathe God’s free air and, by extension, live or die is without doubt the most powerful in any society.
The Judiciary, commonly referred to as the third arm of the government, is tasked to interpret the law.
The Judiciary, and in particular judges, is clothed with the power and authority to change the normal place of abode and the way of life of any individual in society, high or low, rich or poor, influential or unknown, whom it deems as having infringed the law.
This aside, the Judiciary, as part of its interpretative function, can and does rule acts of both the Executive and the Legislature null and void, unconstitutional and, therefore of no effect. The Judiciary can, therefore, cripple not only the lives of individuals but also those of powerful entities such as the Executive and the Legislature.
It is in the face of these immense powers that an array of privileges, such as charging the salaries of the Judiciary to the Consolidated Fund, guaranteeing their security of tenure and freedom from interference and control by others, that society expects the Judiciary to live up to public expectation, among others dispensing justice fairly, freely, impartially and without fear or favour, ill will or affection.
When the Judiciary fails, in spite of all these powers, guarantees and privileges, to dispense justice in accordance with these sacred principles, the life of the ordinary person and, indeed, the rule of law, peace, order and stability of the entire society could be put in jeopardy.
Only recently, a number of eminent citizens of this land, including the late Chairman of the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), Mr Laary Farhan Bimi, and three other lawyers, incurred the wrath of the Association of Magistrates and Judges of Ghana (AMJG) and others in the Judiciary when they broached the vexed subject of corruption in the Judiciary and called for measures to deal with the canker.
Apart from being dragged to the General Legal Council, the four lawyers were also debarred from appearing before any of the judges and magistrates, among others.
Thank God, today, a lot of water has passed under the bridge and a very important and far-reaching statement on the matter has emerged from no mean a body than the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), as well as the Chief Justice herself.
At the opening of the Annual General Meeting of the GBA in Cape Coast Monday, the President of the GBA, Mr Frank Beecham, decried allegations and perceptions of corruption in the Judiciary and said the association had declared war against corruption in the Judiciary.
He said while it was morally reprehensible for judges to take bribes to manipulate the course of justice, it was also totally unacceptable for members of the bar to indulge in similar acts of corruption.
The Chief Justice, Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood, for her part, noted that the lack of integrity in the Judiciary, including the resort to bribe taking, compromised the rule of law and the order and stability of society.
We are happy that there is at least a conscious awakening among some of the major stakeholders to the canker of corruption in the Judiciary which, hitherto, had almost been a taboo subject.
This is good for the nation because when all of us are collectively armed with this conscience and we work actively together, we can expose, name and shame and bring to book all those dishonourable bribe-taking magistrates, judges and their collaborating bribe-giving and corrupt lawyers and clients.
This should help pave the way for the fair and impartial delivery of justice to help win back public confidence in the Judiciary which has waned considerably.