As a layman in the law profession but someone eager to gain understanding of certain legal issues, I invite Ghana lawyers who are more knowledgeable and care to help to educate me on the following. I have lately had the opportunity to read some "Notice of Motions" and "Statements of Claims" pertaining to chieftaincy disputes as written by some lawyers. I could see the lawyers from both sides – for the plaintiffs and defendants arguing out the jurisdictional right or not, of a High Court sitting on cases relating to chieftaincy.
There is a claim or a law that courts, right from the Appeal Court downwards, thus to the District or Magistrate Courts, do not have the constitutional mandate to hear and rule on "cause or matter affecting chieftaincy". I am actually baffled to learn that a High Court or an Appeal Court let alone, a District or Magistrate court is deprived of the right to sit on any case pertaining to chieftaincy matters.
Let me quote verbatim the cause and matter affecting chieftaincy that the mentioned courts are bereft of jurisdiction after which I shall ask one or two questions and then wait for an answer or answers from the legal brains in Ghana.
"In explaining "a cause or matter affecting chieftaincy" the interpretation sections of both Act 459 and Act 759 provide at Sections 117 (1) and 76 respectively, as follows;
"Cause or matter affecting chieftaincy" means a cause, matter, question or dispute relating to any of the following:
1. The nomination, election, selection or installation of a person as a chief or the claim of a person to be nominated, elected, selected or installed as a chief,
2. The deposition or abdication of a chief
3. The right of a person to take part in the nomination, election, selection or installation of a person as a chief or in the deposition of a chief
4. The recovery or delivery of stool property in connection with the nomination, election, selection, installation, deposition or abdication of a chief, and
5. The Constitutional relations under customary law between chiefs"
In Ghana, we have witnessed many instances of chieftaincy disputes. In the course of some of the disputes, some people get seriously beaten up, maimed or murdered. In case a member or a supporter of a party in a chieftaincy dispute ends up killing an opponent of that party, could the murderer be arrested and put before a High Court judge for trial? Another question of same magnitude of seriousness, if a lawyer for the plaintiff or defendant in a chieftaincy dispute gets killed by a member of the opposing party, could the killer be arraigned before a trial High Court Judge? Should somebody perjure in a chieftaincy dispute, what happens? Could the person not be trialled by any court apart from the Judicial Committee of the Regional House of Chiefs and the Supreme Court?
In the three cited cases, a crime has been committed although it relates to chieftaincy. Does this committed crime come about of the chieftaincy dispute fall under the "cause or matter affecting chieftaincy" that the District Court, Magistrate Court, High Court or Appeal Court is bereft of jurisdiction?
Yes, the jurisdiction to hear and rule on "a cause or matter affecting chieftaincy" is vested in the Judicial Committees of the Regional House of Chiefs in the various regions. Where such matters are unable to be resolved at the Judicial Committees or are not fairly arbitrated, then they can escalate to the Supreme Court, the final arbiter.
However, if someone gets killed in a matter arising from chieftaincy as cited above, should the murderer be taken before the Judicial Committee of the Regional House of Chiefs where the incident happened for trial or must be taken straight to the Supreme Court without having recourse to the District, Magistrate, High or Appeal Court? Is that specific crime within the strictly defined limits of "a cause or matter affecting chieftaincy"?
If someone offers bribe or extorts another person in the cause of chieftaincy issue, is such act not a crime frowned upon by Ghana Criminal Code 1960 (Act 29) and the Constitution of Ghana? Should all such crimes be left only under the jurisdiction of the Judicial Committees of the Regional House of Chiefs and the Supreme Court because they came about as a result of chieftaincy?
I am patiently waiting for an answer or answers from those members of public who are knowledgeable in Ghana Laws in general, and chieftaincy laws in particular.
With God, we are victorious!
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