General News of Friday, 27 June 2014
The office of the Chief Justice (CJ) under the 4th Republican constitutional dispensation is not secured, says President and founder of Legal Advocacy Foundation, Dr. Maurice Ampaw.
Speaking as the main speaker at the 2nd Today Lecture in Accra yesterday, Dr. Ampaw minced no words in asserting that the current Chief Justice, Mrs. Georgina Theodora Woode, “is firmly insecure.”
The Lecture, which was organised by Today, a member of Ghana Media Group- a conglomerate of media entities- brought together participants from the academia, lawyers, political parties, students, bankers etc.
It was on the theme: “Is the Judiciary under siege? How secured is the Chief Justice under the Fourth Republican Constitution?” Quoting Article 146 of the 1992 Constitution to buttress his point, Dr. Ampaw expressed his disappointment in the framers of the constitution who he said had made the process of removing the Chief Justice (CJ) so easy.
“Article 146 of the 1992 Constitution has made it so easy to remove the Chief Justice and I am really disappointed in the framers of the constitution,” Dr. Ampaw sadly expressed. “…the process for the removal of the Chief Justice under Article 146 is diabolical, undemocratic and should be rejected by Ghanaians,” president of Legal Advocacy Foundation asserted. According to him, the above article is further compounded by the fact that it is an entrenched provision which amendment will require a referendum. The President, he said can thus ‘diabolically’ cause the removal of the CJ if, he so wishes. That process, he explained, can be started by filing a petition against the CJ to the President. “And per Article 144 of the constitution, the President only has to appoint two Supreme Court Judges and three other members who are not members of the Council of State or lawyers to investigate the petition and advise him on that,” he explained. Dr. Ampah could however not fathom why the prescription for the appointment of the CJ in Article 146 of the same Constitution cannot be applied when removing the CJ. According to him, Article 146 of the Constitution requires the president to appoint the CJ in consultation with the Council of State subject to parliamentary approval. “Currently there is a petition filed against the CJ by Justice Kpegah pending before the president. And if the president wants to do something sinister he can do it by acting on what Article 146 of the Constitution states,” he intimated. “The president can easily and diabolically remove the Chief Justice if he wishes to do so based on the provision in the constitution,” he stressed. The process for the removal of the CJ as enshrined in the constitution, Dr. Ampaw said, contributes to the failure of the judiciary to dispense justice without fear or favour.
In the estimation of lawyer Ampaw the entrenched clauses bothering the judiciary do not make the judiciary to be independent.
According to lawyer Ampaw, this has muted the judiciary from legally demanding what is due to them in terms of adequate financial support from the government. Another issue raised by Dr. Ampaw was the fact that the judiciary was under-resourced. That, he stressed, was hindering the judiciary in its dispensation of justice in the country.
“The Judiciary in Ghana is really under-resourced and this is affecting their work, making delivery of justice, especially for the poor and marginalized, difficult,” he stated.
He also bemoaned the working conditions of judges especially at the lower courts, and the deplorable state of some courts in the country.
Citing examples like courts at the Cocoa Affairs in Accra, Dr. Ampaw chastised government for neglecting the judiciary which he said is a cardinal organ of government in any democratic dispensation.
“If there is a coup, the coup makers can dissolve Parliament but they dare not touch the judiciary,” he stated.
That, he said, shows how important the judiciary is hence the need for it to be properly resourced.
He, therefore, called on government, benevolent organisations and philanthropists to come to the aid of the judiciary by setting up a special judicial fund to support the institution.
“Let corporate organisations and philanthropists contribute towards the work of the judiciary,” Dr. Ampaw appealed.
To this end, he charged Ghanaians to hold the judiciary accountable and demand justice from them.
“In supporting the judiciary to survive in these turbulent times we must also demand accountability and justice from our judges,” he urged Ghanaians.