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27.07.2005 General News

Supreme Court Vindicates CHRAJ


…Preliminary Investigations Into 'Hotel Kufuor' Saga Endorsed By Effect Of July 20, 2005 Ruling!

A ruling by the Supreme Court in a case brought against the Commission on Human Right and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) by Mr. Samuel Appiah Ampofo, former National Insurance Commissioner, in which the latter had sought to raise the alleged constitutional impropriety of the Commission as constituted, when it (CHRAJ) conducted investigations into a complaint filed by The Crusading GUIDE against Mr. Appiah Ampofo, has effectively exposed the fallacy of the NDC's line of thinking relative to the CHRAJ's preliminary investigations into the 'Hotel Kufuor' saga.

Mr.Appiah Ampofo took CHRAJ to court in 2003 after he had lost case brought before the Commission by the Editor-In-Chief of The Crusading GUIDE, Kweku Baako, Jnr. Appiah Ampofo (Plaintiff) in his Summons for Directions, challenged whether or not the Defendant (CHRAJ) was properly constituted when it purported to adjudicate the matters concerning the Plaintiff and whether or not by reason of the above, the Defendant lacked the jurisdiction to adjudicate the matters affecting the Plaintiff.

The Minority group in Parliament, led by Mr. A.S.K. Bagbin, has also recently expressed disquiet over the CHRAJ handling the investigation into 'Hotel Kufuor' saga, saying that it (CHRAJ) in the absence of its substantive Chairperson (Mr. Emile Short who is on secondment on an international assignment) and Mr. Oppong who retired in July 2005, lacked the 'constitutional mandate' and 'technical competence' to investigate the 'Hotel Kufuor' saga. The NDC Minority in Parliament also contended that, according to public perception, the CHRAJ had compromised its independence “and cannot be relied upon to be impartial in this matter”.

CHRAJ, via its Acting Chairperson, Ms. Anna Bossman last Friday, however revealed that on July 20, 2005,the Supreme Court, comprising the Chief Justice, Mr. Kingsley Acquah, Justices Sophia Akuffo, Seth Twum, Date-Baah and Modibo Ocran, rendered a unanimous judgement in favour of the Commission in the Appiah Ampofo Vrs CHRAJ case.

The Supreme Court ruled that CHRAJ Complaint Procedure Regulations, 1994 CI 7 is not unconstitutional; that Panel System of investigation prescribed by CI 7 enabling investigations to be conducted by a Commission Member of Legal Officer as Chairman of the Panel and two others is lawful. “This provision allows other professionals besides lawyers who may be helpful to a specific investigation – such as auditors, financial analysts, etc – to serve on the Commission's Panel”, the Supreme Court pointed out.

According to the Court's ruling – as recounted by Ms. Anna Bossman, at the press briefing in Accra – the Commission need not always sit as a “trinity” of the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioners. “To do so would be an absurdity and would defeat the letter and spirit of the Constitution”. The Court stressed further that the Constitution impliedly established the Commission as a corporate body and as such, the Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioners and Staff of the Commission may perform the functions of the Commission. “Indeed, the Constitution expressly provides that the Commission should have Regional and District offices to conduct such on-the-spot investigations as may be warranted”, the Supreme Court indicated.

Ms. Anna Bossman, in reaction to the Minority's claims, gave a comprehensive outline of the Composition, Structure and Mandate of the Commission and said Under Act 456, the CHRAJ possesses broad investigative powers including the authority to investigate complaints concerning the violation of fundamental human rights, injustices, corruption, abuse of power and unfair treatment of any person by a serving public officer, among others.

According to her, CHRAJ cannot investigate matters pending before a court or judicial tribunal; dealings between the government of Ghana and any other government or international organisation and a matter involving the exercise of the prerogative of mercy by the President.

On preliminary investigations into the 'Hotel Kufuor' saga, the Deputy Commissioner of CHRAJ announced that investigations had begun into the allegations of impropriety against the President. Said she, “Our investigations are at the preliminary stage. At the appropriate time we shall decide whether to conduct a full-scale hearing after which the Commission will render its decision”.

She emphasised that the Commission was not conducting “secret” investigations into the hotel matter. “We have stated it publicly that we are looking into the matter. The persons and institutions who have been contacted or who have come before us have done so after receiving official letters inviting them to assist us in our investigations.

This is the normal process of investigations and is done in order to establish whether or not we need to go into a full-scale investigation”, Ms. Anna Bossman pointed out. She threw an open invitation to anyone who has genuine information that would assist the Commission in the 'Hotel Kufuor' matter to come forward as quickly as possible.