The Judiciary is a very important arm of government. It serves as a bulwark against abuse of office by the other arms of government — the Executive and the Legislature.
In societies where democratic governance is upheld, the three arms try to exercise their roles jealously, without one allowing the others to interfere in its affairs.
Separation of powers thus inures to the advantage of the electorate, with the principle ensuring that the Executive ensures transparency in the management of the resources of the state, while the Legislature holds the purse string of the government, so that it cannot spend without the authorisation of Parliament, with the Judiciary checking against the excesses of the Executive and the Legislature.
The rule of law implies that every citizen is subject to the law. It stands in contrast to the idea that the ruler is above the law; for example, by divine right.
Ghana’s justice system has some challenges, but by far the rule of law applies here more than pertains in other parts of the continent and elsewhere.
Those who break the law and litigants are certain to have their day in court. Even if they disagree with a ruling, which happens very often, they have the opportunity to go to the highest court of the land.
Our governments have, over the last decade, helped to place the Judiciary on another pedestal with the appointment of the first female Chief Justice in the person of Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood in 2007.
When news of her retirement came up a few days ago, many pundits did not expect another female jurist to take over.
Mrs Justice Sophia A.B. Akuffo, who was introduced by the President last Friday, becomes the 13th Chief Justice in the history of the country and the second woman to occupy that position.
Making the announcement last Friday, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said the government was determined to build a new Ghanaian civilisation where the rule of law was not a slogan.
“We are all witnesses to the stormy winds that have buffeted the Judiciary in recent years and the efforts Chief Justice Wood has been making to restore public confidence in the institution. I expect Justice Akuffo to continue and intensify that work,” he said.
Judges are not angels, and as human beings they come up against all the human failings, for which reason we do not expect a perfect institution. But as the institution to which those who are aggrieved turn for justice, it behoves judges to live above reproach and leave little doubt in the minds of litigants of any biases.
The Daily Graphic expects the Judiciary under the direction of Chief Justice Akuffo to take steps to erase the perception of Ghanaians that some of the judges cannot resist the temptation of being corrupt.
Judges are aware of their calling and the people expect them to dispense justice at all times “without fear or favour, ill-will or affection”.
The Daily Graphic wishes Chief Justice Akuffo a hitch-free appearance before Parliament for the confirmation process and subsequent swearing-in by the President to continue with the judicial reforms that will make our Judiciary the best in Africa.
More importantly, we want our Judiciary to be the option for those who feel aggrieved, instead of resorting to self-help for redress.