Feature Article of Monday, 30 April 2012

Columnist: Coffie, Emmanuel Dela

Is Chief Justice breaching the judicial Oath and subverting Justice?

Ask Dela Coffie

“I, Georgina Theodora Wood having been appointed (Chief Justice/a Justice of the Supreme Court etc.) do (in the name of the Almighty God swear) (solemnly affirm) that I will bear true faith-and allegiance to the Republic of Ghana as by law established; that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of the Republic of Ghana; and that I will truly and faithfully perform the functions of my office without fear or favour, affection or ill-will; and that I will at all times uphold, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Ghana. (So help me God.)”

The above is the judicial oath Justice, Georgina Wood sworn, when she took office as the Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana. According to the judicial oath, the Chief Justice is expected at all times to uphold, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Ghana. But can we say that the Chief Justice is upholding the laws of Ghana and the judicial oath for that matter? A nation that does not have, or cultivate, the fortitude to challenge harmful rulings by our nation’s corrupt judges should be prepared to see injustice become an acceptable norm. In my opinion, there will be serious implications for our nation’s democracy if some judges are allowed to adjudicate on criminal matters, when they are, themselves, part of an extensive criminal network. In the aftermath of Kennedy Agyapong’s genocidal war comment and his subsequent arrest, the police arraigned him before a district magistrate court for a committal procedure and to secure remand, while investigations continued as the law demands, and to the amusement of all, magistrate, Patricia Quansah, who was supposed to handle the case, however, declined to proceed, stating, her jurisdiction does not extend to cases of such magnitude. The court cited a circular which emanated from the office of the Judicial Secretary in June 2008, in which crimes such as treason, hijacking, robbery and narcotics offences ought to be sent to the Office of the Chief Justice for a court to be selected. First of all, I don’t believe the Chief Justice would give any such directives which are inconsistent with the judicial oath she swore but if indeed she did so, then justice delivery is under serious threat in Ghana. The courts and its jurisdiction over criminal matters are creation and an act of parliament and I am not too sure if the judiciary has such legislative powers. If indeed there ought to be changes in such procedure it is only fair that the matter is referred to parliament. There is a clear legal procedure that says that there must be a committal procedure in offences that are covered by section 96(7) of Act 30. The state went to the magistrate court to start the process and the magistrate declined to hear the committal procedure on the basis of lack of jurisdiction as a result of the CJ’s directive. The implication of such directive is that the circuit court would not be able to hear any committal procedure on any offences covered by section 96(7) of Act 30. What it then means is that we need a legislative instrument to alter something of this nature prescribed by an act of parliament.

As far as I am concerned, the Chief Justice has no legislative powers and the so-called administrative directives emanating from her office is a clear subversion of the judicial oath that she swore to uphold. Was the General Legal Council informed of such administrative directive? What about the Attorney-General’s department and the Judicial Council?

The action of the Chief Justice in the so-called administrative directives is ultra vires the powers of the judiciary. I am challenging the Chief Justice to come clear on this so-called directive and explain to the good people of Ghana the rationale behind this obvious perversion of justice.

As a result of this singular action, the magistrate court refused the prosecution in the Kennedy Agyapong case to initiate the committal procedure, and therefore allow the accused person to be granted bail under some strange circumstances even though, there is an authority and a binding precedents when it comes to the grant of bail for offences covered by section 96(7) of Act 30.

In Ghana, the independence of the judiciary has conferred on some of the nation’s judges the status of human-gods. By building this false image in their psyche, some of the nation’s judges do not see themselves as civil servants, but as an elitist subgroup whose social standing is unmatched by society’s civil servants. While judges can punish ordinary citizens for violating the law, they enjoy undeserving immunity from criminal prosecution even when their conduct, and rulings, bear features of criminality. While some would speak angrily of me as being overly critical of the judiciary, Ghanaians do not deserve Justice Georgina Wood. A nation that lives in the twenty-first century, must behave according to the diktats of the millennium. While we all agree that the nation has many problems, we cannot adopt an isolationist attitude, and put our destiny in the hands of the nation’s corrupt judges, and think that they can guarantee our freedom.

The judiciary is not a law unto itself and Ghanaians deserve to know the rationale behind this clear case of illegality.

Dela Coffie