Crime & Punishment of Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Two litigants who turned up at the James Town Magistrate Court in Accra yesterday for judgement in their case had to leave in anger and frustration after they were told that the docket on the case was missing.
The case had been in the court since February 2012 and had travelled through the process until judgement was due yesterday, but the magistrate had to call the two parties to her chambers to find an amicable solution after the registrar had reported that the docket was nowhere to be found.
A source told the Daily Graphic that the magistrate, Ms Grace Gunugu, in the absence of the docket, prevailed on the parties to reach a consensus on three options — the case starts afresh, the two parties supply their copies of the proceedings for the case to continue or they petition the Chief Justice.
The parties were given two weeks within which to arrive at a decision.
The case in question is about who qualifies to receive rent from the defendant, Mr Thomas Dettoh, who has been sued by the plaintiff, Mr Frank Antwi, for owing Mr Antwi rent in arrears of GH¢2,400.
In a statement of claim dated February 21, 2012, the plaintiff said the defendant had not been paying rent for the rooms he occupied.
Mr Antwi also claimed that he asked his solicitors to write a notice to the defendant to pay but he continuously failed to respond to his demand.
He, therefore, prayed the court to give him reliefs, including an eviction order and also compel the defendant to pay arrears of rent in the sum of GH¢2,400, with interest.
However, Mr Dettoh, in his statement of defence, denied all the allegations.
He said he had duly paid rent covering 44 months, with effect from May 1, 2009 to December 2012, to the legitimate owners (landlords) of the premises, the Tagoe Family of Accra, and a valid tenancy agreement signed to that effect.
The defendant maintained that he was not obliged to pay rent to Mr Antwi because Mr Antwi was not known to him (Dettoh) as the landlord of the premises he (Dettoh) rented.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, counsel for the plaintiff, Mr Felix Nana Osei, said the situation was rather unfortunate.
“It is rather strange. We have decided to settle the matter as we agreed to with the court. If it is possible to settle the matter, we’ll do so because as of now there is no docket. It means we didn’t do anything,” he said.
“It is sad. We took the matter to court to seek justice. We were in court on June 9 and today was given for judgement, only for the judge to tell us that the docket is missing,” he added.
Counsel for the defendant, Mr Richard Lappo, said while attempts would be made to settle the matter, he would also petition the Chief Justice to look into the matter.
"We will dispatch the petition to the Chief Justice by Wednesday or Thursday. From there, we’ll decide on the next action,” he added.
Missing dockets of the past
Cases of missing dockets in courts are not rare in Ghana.
September 5, 2007
The docket on a case in which a Kumasi Magistrate Court ordered that the employers of a journalist, Mark Bunde, pay his severance package, was reported missing when he applied for a writ to attach his employers properties.
The docket of the case in which Charles Quansah was convicted for killing 34 women went missing from the registries of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. His appeal stalled because the docket could not be found. The docket later resurfaced.
August 16, 2011
The docket on popular hiplife musician Mzbel who was charged with offences including unauthorised parking, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer went missing.
December 20, 2011
The docket on the controversial cocaine-turned-soda case involving DSP Gifty Tehoda was reported missing.