4 December 2013

Ghana: Amidu Caveats Vicky Leaks

A former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Martin Amidu, has questioned the constitutionality of the committee set up by the Chief Justice to investigate claims made by former deputy Minister of Communication Ms. Victoria Hammah, that Nana Oye Lithur influenced the outcome of the election petition.

Victoria Hammah inferred on a leaked audio conversation that the wife of the lead counsel for the first respondent in the disputed election petition, Mr. Tony Lithur, might have influenced the outcome of the Supreme Court decision.

The said audio recording, which received massive air play in the country, soon became the most topical issue which was extensively discussed in the media. She was, thereafter, relieved of her position as deputy Minister.

Many Ghanaians, including key members of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), had challenged the government to probe the issues discussed by Victoria Hammah in the leaked recording, as a sign of its commitment to fighting corruption.

The Chief Justice, acting on a petition sent to her by the General Secretary of the NPP, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, set up a committee, headed by Dr. Justice Date-Bah, to investigate the matter, but Mr. Amidu holds the opinion that the exercise has no legal basis.

"My contention is that the Constitution does not entrust any disciplinary power over superior court justices to the Chief Justice or the Judicial Council, or to an appointments and disciplinary committee, or any other committee of the Judicial Council.

"The independence of the judiciary, and the individual justice in the performance of his judicial functions, are guaranteed in article 127 by the framers of the Constitution. The reason for those provisions is simple. Mahama v Soli [1976] 2 G. L. R 99, and those lines of case, showed how Chief Justices tried to interfere with superior court justices in the performance of their judicial functions," he said.

According to Mr. Amidu, reposing disciplinary authority at first instance in any Chief Justice over other superior court justices is to make superior court justices apprehensive of the Chief Justice's ability to intimidate such justices with threats of removal from office, and thereby, interfere with their judicial independence.

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