General News of Saturday, 15 February 2014
Source: Daily Guide
The State has indicated that it wants an out-of-court settlement in a case in which Samuel Ampomah, a farmer, dragged it to the Supreme Court over the decision to cut the salaries of judges of the lower courts by over 50 per cent.
Sylvester Williams informed the Supreme Court, presided over by Justice William Atuguba on Thursday, that they were negotiating an out-of-court settlement over the matter.
However, Kwasi Adu Mantey, counsel for the farmer, said they had not been given any terms of agreement and explained that they needed to see it to make an informed decision.
The court gave the parties a month to settle the matter and consequently adjourned the case to March 14, 2014.
Other justices hearing the matter are Justices Sophia Adinyera, Julius Ansah, Rose Owusu, Victor Jones Dotse, Kwasi Anin Yeboah and Paul Baffoe-Bonnie.
Mr Ampomah, founder of Advocacy for Peace, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), took the legal action against the Attorney-General and the Chief of Staff, who purportedly withdrew the approval granted for the pay increases of judges.
Other defendants include the Minister of Finance and Controller and Accountant-General.
The farmer is seeking to invoke the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Articles 2, 17(2), 36(2), 127(1) and 5 of the Constitution.
Ampomah believes the letter by the Chief of Staff dated April 10, 2013, which directed the Chief Justice and informed her of the State’s decision to withdraw an approval of the judges’ salary increase, which he claimed was done inadvertently, amounted to discrimination.
According to him, while other public servants such as Members of Parliament (MPs), the President and some members of the Judiciary, as well as civil servants, have had their salaries increased, the salaries of the affected judges were reduced.
In his statement of case, the plaintiff said the Chief of Staff’s letter breached Articles 17, 24, 36, and 127 of the Constitution which, among others, prohibit the variation of the salaries of judges or any other person exercising any judicial power to their disadvantage.
The plaintiff stated that the A-G is the principal legal advisor to the President.
Ampomah said the Finance Minister is responsible for ordering the release of money for the payment of all public servants while the Accountant-General carries out the orders of the Chief of Staff in respect of the payment from the coffers of government.
According to him, on February 27, 2013, a letter with reference number ERFD/ 13 SAL/1 that directed the Accountant-General to commence payment of increased salaries to judges of the lower court was sent out after a presidential commission.
This was during the tenure of the late President John Evans Atta-Mills.
It was carried out subsequently and the Circuit Court Judges and District Court Magistrates began enjoying new and improved salary levels till April 10, 2013 when the Chief of Staff wrote to the Chief Justice, he stated.
Furthermore, he said the Chief of Staff, in a letter dated November 10, 2013, directed the Accountant-General to stop payments to the lower court judges and discuss modalities to recover excess salaries paid to them.
This, he indicated, violated their rights to work under satisfactory conditions.