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15.03.2006 General News

'Statesman' News Editor halts probe of Chief Justice

By GNA

Accra, March 15, GNA - Mr Frank Agyei Twum, News Editor of "The Statesman", newspaper, has filed a writ at the Supreme Court challenging the decision of the President to set up a Committee to probe alleged abuse of office by the Chief Justice. Among the relief being sought by Mr Twum is a declaration that an appointment by the President of a Committee to enquire into Mr Bright Akwetey's petition dated January 13, 2006 constituted an interference and infringed Article 127 (1) and (2) of the Constitution.

Article 127 (1) states; in the exercise of the judicial power of Ghana, the Judiciary, in both its judicial and administrative functions, including financial administration, is subject only to this Constitution and shall not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority and the (2) also states; "neither the President nor Parliament nor any person acting under the authority of the President or Parliament nor any other person whatsoever shall interfere with judges or Judicial officers or other persons exercising judicial power, in the exercise of their judicial functions; and all organs and agencies of the State shall accord to the court such assistance as the court may reasonably require to protect the independence, dignity and effectiveness of the courts, subject to this Constitution.

Mr Twum is further seeking the court to declare that the petition presented by Mr Bright Akwetey to the President, which relates to the removal of the Chief Justice in respect of the performance of his administrative functions within the meaning of Article 125 (4) of the Constitution was inconsistent with the said Article. Article 125 (4) states; "The Chief Justice shall, subject to this Constitution, be the Head of the Judiciary and shall be responsible for the administration and supervision of the Judiciary." In addition, he is also praying the court to declare that Mr Bright Akwetey was not entitled to present his petition to the President in his personal capacity or as a Lawyer and Officer of the court in respect of a complaint relating to the transfer or removal from office of the Judges named in the petition being administrative acts within the competence of the Chief Justice as provided by Article 125 (4) and Article 127 (1) and (2) of the Constitution.

Further, Mr Twum wants a declaration that Article 146 (6) of the Constitution shall be construed concurrently with Article 146 (3) and (4), which required the establishment of a prima facie case prior to the setting up of a Committee to investigate complaints in a petition against a Justice of the Superior Court because the Chief Justice is first and foremost a Judge of the Superior Court. Article 146 (6) says: Where the petition is for the removal of the Chief Justice, the President shall, 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.

Clause 3 of the Article says: "If the President receives a petition for the removal of a Justice of a Superior Court other than the Chief Justice or for the removal of the Chairman of a Regional Tribunal, he shall refer the petition to the Chief Justice, who shall determine whether there is a prima facie case." And clause (4) of the same Article states: "Where the Chief Justice decides that there is a prima facie case, he shall set up a committee consisting of three Justices of the Superior Courts or Chairmen of the Regional Tribunals or both, appointed by the Judicial Council and two other persons who are not members of the Council of State, nor Members of Parliament, nor Lawyers, and who shall be appointed by the Chief Justice on the advice of the Council of State. Mr Twum is further pleading with the Court to declare that by virtue of such construction, the consultation by the President with the Council of State in respect of the appointment of a Committee to inquire into a petition for the removal of the Chief Justice shall first determine whether the said petition discloses a prima facie case before the committee was appointed. Finally, a declaration that the publication in the media of the Second Defendant's petition to the President contravenes Article 146 (8) of the Constitution which provided that all proceedings relating to the removal of a Justice of the Superior Court shall be held in camera.

The Attorney-General and Bright Akwetey the first and second defendants, respectively, in the suit have been given 14 days to file their statements. Mr Asare Otchere-Darko one of the Lawyers representing the plaintiff told the Ghana News Agency that the Attorney-General and Mr Akwetey had been served with the writs. He explained that with the legal suit the Committee set up by the President under Article 146 (6) over the petition could not sit.

Mr Kwabena Agyepong, Press Secretary told a news briefing at the Castle on March 9 2006 that President John Agyekum Kufuor had set up a Committee to review a petition he has received from an Accra-based private legal practitioner against Chief Justice George Kingsley Acquah. He did not, however, disclose the names of the members of the Committee or the contents of the petition.

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