Friday, 6 September 2013

Ills Of Politicising The Judiciary

The association or perceived linkage of the Judiciary in Ghana with active partisan politics, a trend which is fast emerging in Ghana's democracy if not checked, can eventually spell its doom. Currently dominating discussion on our airwaves is a statement attributed to lead counsel for the NDC in the December, 2012 election petition, Tsatsu Tsikata. Mr. Tsikata is alleged to have attacked the integrity of one of the nine justices of the Supreme Court who sat on the case, Mr. Justice Anin-Yeboah. Mr. Tsikata claimed Justice Anin-Yeboah throughout the hearing of the election petition allowed his allegiance to the era that appointed him to the Supreme Court to cloud his judgement. Before the start of the hearings, the NPP for unexplained reasons expressed no confidence in Mr. Justice William Atuguba as Presiding Judge asking him to recuse himself owing to his relation with the Presidents Executive Secretary, Dr. Raymond Atuguba. They later withdrew their petition. Also another judge on the panel, Mr. Justice Jones Dotse was alleged to have held an executive position in the NPP in the Volta Region, an accusation which he denied. The list is endless but suffice it to say that this is a dangerous trend given the fact that the 1992 Constitution amply provides for Separation of Powers and Independence of the Judiciary. Separation of Powers restrains or prevents officers or functionaries of any of the three Arms of State, the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary from abusing their function and position. This is to afford effective checks and balances between state powers. Locke and Montesquieu adduce that the three Powers of State should be separated in function and composition and no person should be a member of more than one Power of State.  For instance, if the Executive usurps the legislative powers of the legislature, government meddles in parliamentary proceedings and dictates to Parliament thus Parliament is unable to check and scrutinize government effectively.  Article 125 (3) of the 1992 constitution vests the judicial power of Ghana in the Judiciary accordingly neither the President nor Parliament nor any organ or agency of the Executive or Parliament is given final Judicial power. Nevertheless the problem of the Executive trying to affect the functioning of the judiciary is prevalent in a host of both developing and developed countries including Ghana. There are many ways in which the Executive affect judicial decisions. These include appointing and dismissing judges and manipulating the law.  We recall for instance the appointment of Justice Afreh to the Supreme Court in March, 2002. Justice Afreh was appointed immediately to the bench to hear the review of the Tsatsu Tsikata versus Attorney General's Case which challenged the constitutionality of the Fast Track Courts. Justice Afreh's appointment increased the court's number and when the case was finally reviewed, the earlier verdict in favour of Mr. Tsikata was overturned which in the opinion of many people amounts to packing the court. 

We agree naturally we all have political sympathies but that should not influence our work otherwise, it would amount to corruption. Corruption has been loosely defined as using ones office for personal gains. It is unfortunate Mr. Tsikata was in discretional in the timing of his statement.  He could mean well but the truth is always bitter and most times depends on the circumstances. Strong and independent judiciaries are sine-qua-non for enhanced democracy. They safeguard the rights of the people and form the building blocks of prosperous and stable nations. There is always hue and cry when politicians and for that matter people of Tsatsu's stature criticize the judiciary. We recall the furore generated when the National Chairman of the NDC, Dr. Kwabena Adjei made his infamous "there are many ways of killing a cat" statement. We need to safeguard the peace we are enjoying by being circumspect in our utterances. It has been established, there are bad nuts within the judiciary and it is up to the Chief Justice to clean the stables. Tsatsu's statement has stirred the hornet's nest but not be the harbinger for troubled waters.


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