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General News of Monday, 6 May 2013

Source: XYZ

Judges descend on Gabby over Mornah case

The Supreme Court Justices hearing the election petition case have condemned the description of the Bench as a “timid” bunch concerning their decision regarding the Bernard Mornah case.

The court on Tuesday April 30, 2013 ruled that certain aspects of the Constitutional Instrument (C.I.) 74 used to regulate the December 7 & 8, 2012 general elections were unconstitutional.

A seven-member panel chaired by Justice Julius Ansah unanimously held that sitting on holidays as well as weekends by the court as prescribed by C.I. 74 was inconsistent with the law and, therefore, unconstitutional.

The court further held that the decisions arising out of disputes under C.I. 74 can also be reviewed and thus went ahead to nullify Rule 71(b) of C.I. 74 which provides that the decision of the Supreme Court in respect of a petition presented to challenge the election of a president cannot be reviewed.

The case was filed by Bernard Mornah, General Secretary of the People’s National Convention (PNC), in which he sought the annulment of C.I. 74.

The other justices on the seven-member panel included Sophia O. Adinyira, Rose C. Owusu, Anin-Yeboah, Sule N. Gbadegbe, Vida Akoto-Bamfo and A.A. Benin.

After the court’s ruling, the Executive Director of Think Tank Danquah Institute, Mr. Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, forwarded an article to various media houses for publication.

It was entitled: “The Supreme Court showed its timidity in the Mornah Case”.

In the said article, which received wide publication on many news websites, Mr. Asare Otchere-Darko amongst others, insinuated that the court had compromised its neutrality.

He said: “It appears while freedom fighters like Aung San Suu Kyi are calling for the judiciary, as an institution to be “strengthened and released from political interference” our courts in Ghana find it necessary to park the wheels of justice on the compounds of the legislature, expecting to be towed out off there at the pleasure of the executive”. Mr Otchere-Darko added: “If ever there was a farcical case that the Supreme Court was ever called upon to exercise its constitutional powers in order to assert the independence of the judiciary in line with the doctrine of the separation of powers, and stay off any undue reach of the hands of the other two arms of government to frustrate the administration of justice, then the Bernard Mornah case was it”.

His criticisms apparently did not go down well with the court.

Before proceedings started today, Monday May 6, 2013, Justice Gbadegbe, who was also one of the seven-member Bench that ruled on the Mornah case said: “Before we go on I wish to make an observation and I have the support of some of my colleagues”.

He said: “We all know that this is the first case we are trying in this constitutional era; it’s bound to come up with challenges but much as we are open to fair criticism, some of the criticisms are going beyond bounds”.

He fumed: “To describe Judges as timid is not healthy for the administration of Justice”, warning that: “We will like to urge you all to be circumspect with whatever you say. After all some of the criticisms are good for the development of the law, but others tend to undermine the authority of the personality of the judges”.

Clarifying his point, Justice Gbadegbe said he was not directing his reservations at the counsel on either side of the election petition.

Without mentioning names, however, he explained: “When we delivered the Mornah case, perhaps we were wrong, but that was our decision, but certain articles that were on the websites describing the judges as timid et cetera is not healthy for the development of the law”, adding that: “It is not proper”.

He noted: “That’s all we wish to say. We are reluctantly saying these things because we know of the responsibility that we all owe to the Ghanaian society, all of us, the legal system to do this case in a manner that shows civility and so please we are urging you to be circumspect and use language that is civil; that show some courtesy to the court”.

No sooner had Justice Gbadegbe ended his admonishment than Mr. Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko issued an apology on his facebook wall.

He wrote: "My apologies to the Supreme Court, members of which feel offended by my description of part of their decision in the Mornah case as timid in an article I wrote. I hereby withdraw the use of the word "timidity" and apologise unreservedly to their Lordships."

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