Lawyers Criticize Ruling on Fast Track Courts
Lawyers who led discussions at a symposium on the recent Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the fast track courts have called for a constitutional amendment to determine the number of Judges to be appointed to the Supreme Court. The amendment would gag the Executive from packing the court arbitrarily and assert the independence of the Judiciary. They also criticized the award of a 10 million cedi cost against the plaintiff.
The plaintiff, Tsatsu Tsikata had contested the constitutionality of the fast track court, winning by a 5-4, majority decision of the court in February. That decision was reversed by an expanded panel by 6-5 in June.
The symposium was on: "The Fast Track Court Ruling: Lessons Learned and Implications for the Administration of Justice in Ghana," was organized by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) in collaboration with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
The panelists at the symposium including Dr Kwasi Prempeh of CDD-Ghana and Nene Amegatcher of Okudzeto Chambers argued that there was no need to award the cost against Mr Tsikata since the case, which was neither bogus nor frivolous, was reviewed at the request of the Attorney General. Other members of the panel were Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, Minority Spokesman for Constitutional and Legal Matters, Yonny Kulendi of Akuffo Addo, Prempeh and Company and Nana Asante Bediatuo, a Lawyer and Investment Banker.
They reviewed nine sub-themes that included the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, empanelling of the Supreme Court by the Chief Justice, representation of the Chief Justice by the Attorney General and the accountability of the Judiciary.
There was consensus over the need for members of the bench to be accountable and transparent in the discharge of their duties. There was, however, a divergence of opinion on the legitimacy of the FTC and the authority of the Chief Justice to establish such courts and the empanelling of Judges to decide on constitutional matters.
While there was a consensus on a number of issues, the panelists shared divergent opinions on the legitimacy of the fast track courts, the authority of the Chief Justice to establish such courts and the empanelling of Judges to decide on constitutional matters.
Alhaji Mumuni said the 6-5 decision by the Supreme Court that re-instated the constitutionality of the FTC was a conspiracy between the Executive and the Judiciary to undermine the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary. He said government's appointment of Justice Dixon Kwame Afreh, who presided over a Fast Track Court on the panel for the review, was a clear case of Executive Influence over the Judiciary.
Alhaji Mumuni argued that the framers of the Constitution were convinced that the law courts should be insulated from the Executive to protect the fundamental rights of the people. He said although the Supreme Court had a review jurisdiction it was wrong to succumb to the case brought before it by the Attorney General since the February ruling over the FTCs should have ended the litigation. Alhaji Mumuni described as absurd the empanelling of a full bench of 11 to sit on the review when the constitutional provisions made it seven.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Attorney -General and Minister of Justice, who was among the members of the audience defended the review saying that it was constitutional.
He cited Mr Kwame Pianim, a Political Activist and Economist, who invoked the review jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for the first time to reverse an earlier decision barring him from contesting an election as a presidential candidate.
He said a review of a constitutional matter was necessary since it offered the court the opportunity to correct a mistake it might have made in an earlier ruling. Mr Akufo-Addo said there was no way the appointment of people to the bench by the Executive could undermine the independence of the judiciary since the history of decisions by the courts have established that as a fact. He said the Kufuor Administration had no interest in establishing FTCs since it was the prerogative of the Chief Justice. The Minister of Justice said government would remain on track as the only political administration with the exemplary record of upholding the law.
Dr Prempeh said the Supreme Court's ruling on the FTC did not make the Executive powerful in any way neither did it add nor take anything from the Constitution. He said the independence of the Judiciary and the constitutional rights of the citizenry were not jeopardized by the mere enforcement of the Review jurisdiction of the court. Nana Bediatuo spoke against the partisan nature the debate on the FTC had taken saying the decision by the Supreme Court was not against any Ideological inclination of any political party.
Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, Executive Director of CDD, called for a scholarly and well informed debate over the FTC to enhance the country's democratic process.
Source: Joy Online