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Opinions of Thursday, 8 October 2015

Columnist: Africanus Owusu-Ansah

Justices denied Justice?

“Physiologically and anatomically, judges are no more and no less human than the rest of us, but a judge is the only person empowered to take away your liberty, your livelihood or even your life. Shouldn’t we expect them to show higher moral and ethical standards?”

I.K. Gyasi’s text message to Kwaku Baako

“BY COURT, upon scrutiny of the petition, we found that the issues to be determined are: (i) over – voting; (ii) absence of the signature of a presiding officer on the statement of poll and declaration of results (pink sheets) (iv) duplicate serial numbers… (v) duplicate polling station codes… (vi) unknown polling stations, i.e. results recorded for polling stations which are not part of the list of 26,0002 polling stations … we would unanimously dismiss the claims relating to issues (iv), (v), and (vi)… Atuguba, Sophia Adinyira, Baffoe – Bonnie Gbadegbe and Vida Akoto Bamfo JJSC dismiss the claim of over – voting. Atuguba, Sophia Adinyira, Baffoe – Bonnie, Gbadegbe and Vida Akoto – Bamfo JJSC dismiss the claim relating to absence of signature of presiding officer on the pink sheets. Atuguba, Sophia Adinyira, Dotse, Gbadegbe and Vida Akoto –Bamfo dismiss the claim relating to voting without biometric verification.

Ansah, R.C. Owusu and Anin – Yeboah JJSC grant all the three claims… Dotse grants the claim of voting without biometric verification. In the circumstances, the overall effect is that the first respondent, John Dramani Mahama, was validly elected and the petition is, therefore, dismissed. Our various judgments, for the sake of convenience, are handled over to the registrar of this court.”

With this terse pronouncement, the Lordships at the Supreme Court had delivered their judgment of an 8 – month petition on the 2012 Presidential election result, beamed live nationwide, in less than 5 minutes. Some people glued to their TV sets, had just left for the washroom to prepare and steel themselves for a marathon delivery of a judgment speculated to last 3 – 6 hours. Their expectation could not be met, and they were disappointed. The President and Vice – President, John Dramani Mahama and Kow Amissah – Arthur were seen in their white long robes sipping ‘something’. People got dazed and dazzled; speechless and thunderstruck. These led to various speculations, wild allegations, unsustainable rumours, including a concocted royal “hand—shake”.

The overall effect was the loss of faith in the judiciary and the judicial system by a great number of Ghanaians. The loss of faith in the judicial system had been spawned by the inscrutable and cryptic judgments as in the case of Woyome. Hence, when the story of the judicial corruption, as exposed by Anas Aremeyaw Anas and the Tiger Eye hit the streets, there was little or no sympathy for the affected judges and magistrates. People henceforward would not lose a case—the judges must have been bribed, in case one lost a court case.

Anyone who tried to ‘defend’ the judges was given various labels – even to the extent of being called ‘mad men’. Philip Kobina Baidoo in the Chronicle of October 1, 2015, says, “… someone was suggesting that Anas is disgracing the country… I was livid. I had to take time out to calm down. When I later recovered my composure, I consoled myself that they are the comments of a dim wit… anybody who is against what Anas has done or is doing has got something to hide.”

Bright Akwetey has not been spared and as for Ndebugre, his 30 – year legal practice has been shot down. Anas is permitted to appear before the Disciplinary Committee with a veil on his face, using two other decoys. Anas’s story is believed, and the judges – all of them – with their families, their neighbours and their relations have been ruined, and the whole country is obsessed and possessed; harangued and haunted! When his Lordship Paul Utter Dery and others file a suit upon suit, to place an injunction on the screening of the ‘scandal’, someone thinks they are wasting time, and remarks that next time, ‘they’ll be suing God’.

I am not for one moment holding brief for all the judges who have been caught on tapes, for their complicity. People prefer that opportunity is given to them to defend themselves and human rights lawyers would like to see to it that we all give respect to Chapter Five (Article 12 – 33) of the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992, Article 17 (1) of which states; “All persons shall be equal before the law”. Article 19 (2) states that “A person charged with a criminal offence shall – (c) be presumed to be innocent until he is proved or has pleaded guilty… (e) Be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence. In the case of the High Court judges, Article 146 of the Constitution states the condition for their removal, while Article 147provides for the procedure for the removal of judges and magistrates of the lower courts.

Anas and his two team – mates were said to have appeared before the Disciplinary Committee of the Judicial Council on Wednesday, September 30, 2015 and “… some of the lawyers … told Anas that he as the lead investigator, could see their faces while they could not come to terms with his true identity. They attempted to have him remove his veil for them to see his face, but Anas and his colleagues reportedly refused to heed the request. “What type of law are we running in this country now?” so ask a number of people.

As Marcus Antonius says in ‘Julius Caesar’, “When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff. Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man”. Yes, Anas, is an ‘honourable’ man, and the whole Ghanaian society is doing an obeisance to him. He, on his part, shows the emaciated faces of hapless judges, with pictures furtively taken. What some objective minds wanted to see in the tape was a clear, smooth flow of the events, not the ‘aside’ comments. Justice, rule of law, due process, people are crying out; even criminals with murder charges on their heads can be prosecuted on lesser charges of manslaughter, or be acquitted on grounds of provocation, et cetera, depending on their defences.

Hitherto, that is, in the days when their Lordships Justices, Azu Crabbe, F.K. Apaloo, E.N.P. Sowah, P.E.N.K. Archer, Abban, E.K. Wiredu, and Acquah had been Chief Justices, whatever charge of ‘corruption’ was leveled against judges and magistrates had been given the attribute of ‘perception’; even for the greater part of Her Lordship Georgina Wood’s stewardship as Chief Justice, ‘perception’ had been the alibi, until the phantom Anas came on the scene.

People are asking why now? Is it because this government appears to have demonstrated bad faith in governance and had allowed ‘corruption’ to taint every act? People are asking, “Why did Tiger Eye not go to the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal”? A fish is said to rot starting from the head. Kumasi may have been disappointed for being denied the opportunity to view the video last week at Golden Tulip. Perhaps the residents, including Bismark Medie, need be reminded that this is not like an Agya Koo film, which is always a fabrication. There is no need for a ‘Demo to Rock Kumasi’. This is a life– and – death matter for the affected judges, including Paul Dery who also have their individual rights to protect. If in the past, others who had been caught by the Anas lenses chose not to challenge the findings, it could either be because they decided to shirk their rights or felt that they had no defence.

For this and the next generation, that is, 60 years hence, some people think, the judiciary has lost its glamour—they may need to be proved wrong. The people warn against “rushed” judgment; since even though “justice delayed is justice denied, justice rushed is justice crushed”. Some people think if “al Jazeera” and other international TV stations have got the video and will decide to show it, that is another matter.

My brother, I.K. Gyasi is justified in his expectation of higher moral and ethical standards from judges. All that some people want to see is that “due process” is followed to unravel the mystery of judicial corruption, as has been exposed by Anas and Tiger Eye. Who would entrust his life in the hands of a judge who would stoop so low, take a bribe of a 200—cedi goat and divert justice?

More anon.

Africanus Owusu-Ansah

africanusoa@gmail.com