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05.01.2006 General News

CJ recommends alternative dispute resolution


Accra, Jan. 5, GNA - Mr Justice George Kingsley Acquah, the Chief Justice, on Thursday launched the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) week in Accra with a call on members of the bench, bar and litigants to embrace the mechanism to reduce the workload on the courts system. The ADR week to be held from January 9-13 is under the theme, "Settling Cases Out of Court."

ADR, an efficient and expeditious mechanism connected to the court process, would enable litigants to opt for an out of court settlement of cases instead of going through the court process. Also under the ADR, experts and persons with specialised skills would be assigned to deal with civil, commercial, child custody disputes and maintenance cases among others.

The Chief Justice said the need for the courts to adopt the ADR in the resolution of disputes had become more pronounced and necessary because of complainants made against the formal court trials. He noted that the emergence of the ADR mechanism had not only become one of the most significant in conflict management and judicial reform but a global necessity.

Mr Justice Acquah said the Judicial Service as an institution had realised the need to minimise the problems associated with delays, expense, stress and dissatisfaction related to court litigation. This, he said, had led to the several reforms in the service including fast tracking of the high courts, extensive training of staff and establishment of the commercial courts.

Mr Justice Acquah said these notwithstanding, there were some concerns about the delays and huge expenses involved at the courts, hence the need to opt for ADR that would complement the court litigation.

He said cases suitable for the ADR had been selected in some of the courts in Accra, Tema and other regional capitals.

"These cases would be handled by a team of selected and well-trained neutrals including judges and magistrates."

"Cases that have been pending before the trial courts in respect of which there have been no proceedings over a year would also be struck out before the very court during the ADR week."

"This, it is hoped, will help decongest the courts and put all litigants on their toes henceforth," he added.

The Chief Justice was optimistic that the ADR concept would be used in disposing of cases at the Appellate Court.

He indicated that the service would embark on a rigorous education on ADR at all levels in order to enhance processes in resolving disputes and differences between litigants. The Chief Justice therefore, called on the staff to re-dedicate themselves to the ideas and principles of ADR especially to the provisions of sections 72 and 73 of Court Act 1993, Act 459, and the policy of the service, which enjoined the courts to promote reconciliation in civil and some limited scope of criminal cases. "The task ahead of us in our bid to integrate ADR into out judicial system is by no means an easy one."

"The cooperation and commitment of staff of the service, the public, the Ghana Bar Association and the neutrals are therefore, required to make it successful. We have no alternative but to succeed." Mr J. Ayikoi Otoo, Minister for Justice and Attorney General, said Government was sensitive to the need for ADR as such it was coming out with the ADR Bill.

"Cabinet has studied the bill and referred it to a cabinet sub-committee for in-depth study. My Ministry has begun education on the bill through out the country.

"Under the bill the court is given power where it acts with the consent of the parties to refer an action that relates to a written agreement to arbitration even when there is no arbitration agreement in respect of the action," Mr Otoo explained. He appealed to members of the bench to take the ADR exercise seriously in order to hold themselves in readiness when the Bill was promulgated.

Mr Solomon Kwami Tetteh, President of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), said the ADR promised to be more efficient in the expeditious disposal of backlog cases pending at the courts than litigation. He therefore called on all lawyers to accept the ADR saying, "I hope the judges will continue to commend to the parties to each case before them amicable resolution through mediation or arbitration through the Ghana Arbitration Centre."

Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, Justice of the Supreme Court and Chairperson of the ADR Committee, stressed the need for all parties to play their roles effectively in order to achieve goals of the ADR mechanism.