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Opinions of Sunday, 11 March 2012

Columnist: Apaak, Clement A.

Does The Judicial Council Of Ghana Care About Justice

PRESS STATEMENT: Does The Judicial Council Of Ghana Care About Justice Delivery In Ghana

March 9, 2012

The Forum for Governance and Justice (FGJ) is compelled to question the willingness and ability of the Judicial Council of Ghana to discharge its core constitutional responsibilities.

The Judicial Council, chaired by the Chief Justice, with representation from key stakeholders in the area of justice delivery, including the Police, the Bar Association, Judicial Staff, the Attorney General, Justices representing the various levels of the Court system, a Chief from the House of Chiefs as well as some appointees, is a creation of the 1992 Constitution.

The functions of the Judicial Council include: (a) to propose for the consideration of Government, judicial reforms to improve the level of administration of justice and efficiency in the Judiciary; (b) to be a forum for consideration and discussion of matters relating to the discharge of the functions of the Judiciary and thereby assist the Chief Justice in the performance of his/her duties with a view to ensuring efficiency and effective realization of justice; and (c) to perform any other functions conferred on it by or under this Constitution or any other law not inconsistent with the Constitution. In addition, the Judicial Council may establish such committees as it considers necessary to which it shall refer matters relating to the Judiciary.

Most will agree that the framers of the 1992 Constitution intended the Judicial Council to contribute towards; a) speedy administration of Justice, b) unfettered access to Justice and, c) efficiency in the delivery of Justice. Sadly, the opposite is the case in Ghana today. No honest Ghanaian can claim that there is speedy administration of justice. Equally, access to justice is fettered and some suspect the sale of justice.

Truthfully, can Ghanaians believe that all is well in the area of justice delivery in our nation when a former member of the Judicial Council is questioning the ability and willingness of State Attorneys to work in the interest of the State? Should the Judicial Council not be concerned about this and the fact that senior members of the Police Service accuse the judiciary of freeing criminals?

The FGJ believes that the people will like to know if the Judicial Council has made any recommendations regarding the many complaints of judicial corruption? What has the Judicial Council done about perceptions that the judiciary sides with wrong doers? Should the Judicial Council not be worried when dockets disappear regularly in Courts and exhibits transform into other substances?

Many Ghanaians will like to know why the Judicial Council has been mute for almost a year while some lawyers remain blacklisted, for rendering service to the nation, at the instigation of a group calling itself the Association of Magistrates and Judges of Ghana. Does the Judicial Council believe that we have an independent judiciary when the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land, refuses to hear a lawyer representing a citizen before it because a group filed a complaint against the lawyer?

Clearly, if the Judicial Council is aware of these matters yet has made no recommendations, and has not initiated committees aimed at finding solutions to them, then, we have the right as good citizens to question the willingness and ability of the Judicial Council to execute its Constitutional responsibilities.

Signed Dr. Clement A. Apaak

Convener, Forum for Governance and Justice - Ghana 020 011 7620