Election 2024: Adequate resources for judiciary crucial
Next year (2024) is a crucial year as Ghanaians go to the polls to elect a new President and Members of Parliament to steer the affairs of the country for the next four years.
What to expect next year has already started with interesting scenes in the political space as political parties elect their candidates to contest the elections, while politicians also strategise on ways of winning the votes of the masses.
Amid the charged political atmosphere, there are bound to be many legal disputes relating to internal party elections, alleged unsatisfactory conduct by politicians and disagreements with some decisions by the Electoral Commission (EC), the constitutionally mandated independent institution charged with conducting public elections in the country.
With the numerous legal disputes currently pending and expected to happen as a result of the heightened political tempo, the limelight will be on the Judiciary, the third arm of government clothed with the constitutional power to settle disputes in this country.
It is therefore imperative that the judiciary has the resources and support to guard its independence and effectively carry out its mandate of adjudicating on electoral disputes and indeed other disputes to help keep our dear nation intact and free from any civil strife that would jeopardise our enviable peace and tranquillity.
Fortunately, throughout our history as a nation, the judiciary has been at the centre of our tremendous democratic achievement, standing tall in fidelity to the law, giving landmark decisions and using its powers under the constitution to check the excesses of governance and extreme partisanship while expanding the frontiers of our democracy and making us a shining example in the world.
To effectively guard the independence of the judiciary to enable it to administer justice and carry out its functions in tandem with the law, we must safeguard the financial independence of the judiciary.
Article 127 (1) of the 1992 Constitution categorically insulates all activities of the Judiciary, including its financial administration, from external control to protect its independence due to the sensitivity of its functions.
However, although all activities of the judiciary have been insulated from external control, that of financial independence seems to be more of paper talk than a reality.
The judiciary still depends on the Executive arm of government, specifically the Ministry of Finance, for clearance before recruiting staff, a practice which can negatively affect the human resource base of the service to effectively serve the nation.
The Chief Justice, Justice Gertrude Sackey Torkornoo, has been advocating the need for the judiciary to be allowed to control its finances to give it the ability to effectively deliver on its mandate.
At the recent 2023 annual general meeting of the Association of Magistrates and Judges Ghana, the Chief Justice called for a national conversation and action to stop the decades-long practice whereby the executive controls the finances of the judiciary.
“How can we be an independent arm of government if we do not have control over our finances?
Is the constitutionally guaranteed institutional independence of the judiciary only a mirage?
“Can the institutional independence of the judiciary be asserted when we need clearance to engage staff, clearance to access money generated from court services, and clearance to procure any asset to do our work?” she queried.
The Daily Graphic fully supports Justice Torkornoo’s quest to secure financial autonomy for the judiciary as it would help remove the numerous bottlenecks associated with justice delivery in the country.
Again, it will be easier and more understandable for the public to hold a financially autonomous judiciary accountable for some of the shortcomings in the justice delivery system which are mostly occasioned by the lack of finances.
The Daily Graphic therefore entreats the government to make the budget of the judiciary a top priority just like that of the EC in the 2024 budget currently being prepared as the nation gears up for the 2024 general election.
As already explained, the importance of the judiciary in an election year cannot be underestimated.
It is the judiciary that will hold this country together when the politicians in their quest to grab power become embroiled in disputes.
We therefore need a financially sound and autonomous judiciary to safeguard our democracy and our prosperity as a nation.