Let’s allow the judiciary to breathe
For the past 31 years, Ghana has successfully transferred power from one government to another on five occasions without any civil strife, and our nation is intact.
As a nation, we have also achieved tremendous successes in promoting human rights and civil liberties within these years of constitutional order and constitutionalism, further cementing our credentials as a bastion of democracy on the African continent.
At the centre of this tremendous democratic achievement is the judiciary, which has stood 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.
However, our flourishing democracy and its offspring of competitive politics has bred extreme partisanship, factionalism and acrimony, a situation which is threatening the existence of many independent institutions, including the judiciary, the third arm of government and the custodian of the law which gives the legal basis for our democracy.
The judiciary has become a punching bag for political actors, with some politicians, including very senior statesmen, taking them to the cleaners whenever it suits their interests or when it is convenient to enable them to appeal to their core party base.
Such political actors forget that the judiciary is the bulwark of our democracy and therefore any unjustifiable attempt to bastardise such an important institution will ultimately spell doom for the democracy they intend to benefit from as leaders.
An erroneous perception is being created that judges do the bidding of the President who appointed them.
This perception, without any sound legal argument, is being propagated by politicians to the masses who swallow them hook, line and sinker, further destroying public confidence in the judiciary.
Lawyers, activists and students of the law will attest to the fact that it was during former President Jerry John Rawlings era (1992 to 2000) that the country benefited from landmark decisions by the Supreme Court which helped entrench constitutionalism and improve constitutional rule.
Interestingly, most of the landmark cases were initiated by the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the opposition party at the time, and some of its members, with the judges who were appointed by President Rawlings, ruling against his government.
Example of such cases are - NPP v A-G (31st December Case), which led to the Supreme Court declaring the celebrations of the 31st December coup with public funds as unconstitutional; NPP v IGP and A-G, where the apex court declared a section of the Public Order Act, which allowed the Minister for the Interior to sanction demonstrations, as a fetter on the right of people to demonstrate guaranteed under Article 21 and therefore unconstitutional, and J.H Mensah v A-G, where the Supreme Court held that the decision by President Rawlings not to have his retained Ministers undergo vetting by Parliament was a violation of Article 78 and, therefore, unconstitutional.
With regard to the current administration, judges appointed by President Nana Akufo-Addo have given judgments against the government.
For example, the contentious decision by President Akufo-Addo to direct a former Auditor-General, Yaw Domelevo, to proceed on leave was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Again, a move by the Economic and Organised Crime (EOCO) to freeze the assets of the former CEO of COCOBOD, Stephen Kwabena Opuni, was not only rejected by the Supreme Court, but the court further warned state institutions to be mindful of the rights of people in the discharge of their duties.
Other examples include the decision by the government to cap statutory funds such as the District Assembly Common Fund, which was declared unconstitutional, and the unlimited powers granted to President Akufo-Addo which allowed him to violate the human rights of people under the guise of COVID-19 was also declared null and void by the Supreme Court due to its unconstitutionality.
We can go on and on to list many cases whereby the judges have ruled against the President who appointed them.
The judiciary is not above criticism and cannot even be against criticism but a deliberate attempt to stain its image with the ultimate aim of scoring political points is not only dangerous for our democracy, but it has the potential to negatively affect our cohesion as a nation.
The Daily Graphic calls on political actors and other stakeholders to be bold to criticise the judiciary, but such criticisms must be constructive and based on facts and not wild allegations that further divide our already extreme partisan country.
We also encourage the judiciary to interact and engage with all stakeholders, including political parties, to explain some of their activities to help boost confidence in the service.
Most importantly, let us allow the judiciary to breathe to be able to serve us well.