The judge, his law and my walkabout

BY: Arku Jasmine

I recall talking to this chap who ticked off on his fingers, what he insisted were the qualities of a good judge: He must know his law inside out, must place the highest premium on the quality of his judgments, must not drink too much booze, must not cheat on his missus, must base his decisions on honest interpretations of the law, must not be too political or let politics get in the way of his judgments…
It is understandable that the judge is expected to lead the life of a saint on earth, Jomo, for who else has power over matters of life and death apart from God? Here is one human creature who unlike any other, sometimes has the life of someone sitting in the middle of the palm of his right hand. He can make a man take the last walk to the gallows or let him live.

It makes the judge the most powerful human on the planet and places a heavy burden on him to pass judgments with sanctity of conscience. Fortunately for the judge, what appears to be an unwitting conspiracy between public expectations of him/her, the judiciary’s own code of conduct and plain old common sense, have set the judge apart to try and keep him spiritually and morally uncorrupted.

That must explain why from a distance, the private life of nearly every court judge does appear freakish somewhat. The average judge does not strut around in public, has no booze buddies or nocturnal haunts and you won’t find him hanging out or hobnobbing with the boisterous sound-and-colour crowd.

Oh, yea, it is all understandable: Imagine that a particular judge is seen swigging stout beer or playing multiple rounds of golf at weekends with someone. Tomorrow, the bloke appears before this judge as a respondent in a civil litigation. If the judge should justifiably rule in favour of his friend, what will the other litigating party and indeed the public think, knowing the judge’s relationship with the respondent?

We are a talking about people who are custodians of a very sacred body of knowledge that is indispensible in keeping society ordered. It makes sense then, that society looks up to the judge for justice and has confidence that the judge will act according to dictates of a sanitized conscience in his judgments.

I actually never thought much about the sacredness of the duty of the judge until this historic Supreme Court hearing of the election dispute got underway and progressed. There is good reason to anticipate a fair ruling on the election dispute:

Don’t take my word for it. Ask any lawyer who has been in practice for a decent length of time and he will confirm that the average judge is constantly conscious of the sacredness of his duty. Most lawyers will affirm that but for a few exceptions perhaps, most judges they have come across in the course of their practice, have generally lived up to expectation. A confession they will most likely make though, is that they have sometimes had occasion to disagree with a judge’s rulings. It is unlikely that every lawyer would agree with a judge ruling.

When the nine justices hearing the election dispute voted on an objection raised by petitioners’ counsel Philip Addison over the tendering in of an exhibit by counsel for the Electoral Commission, Mr. Quarshie-Idun this week, only one justice dissented in the overruling of the objection. Meaning the quality of the ruling they will deliver on the dispute is almost guaranteed. Since the only certainty is uncertainty however, let me backtrack a couple of millimeters and add that at least, I hope so!

The good justices are not faced with the task of having to solve the riddle of the sphinx but to decide whether on the basis of the evidence the petitioners, the respondents and their lawyers have made available to the court, there were indeed violations of the country’s electoral laws during the presidential election, whether the violations if any, were deliberate, systematic and so widespread as to have impacted significantly on the outcome of the election, yah?

By the way, Jomo, I have just returned from a walkabout around town and crisis is written in capital letters all over the place:

The dust and the heat which threatened to roast all twenty-something million of us alive in the month of March have fled before the rains. With the rains have come the usual sogginess, mud, gaping potholes and motor vehicle congestion, along with the possibility of heavy flooding in coming weeks looming like nemesis over the capital.

Then there is the fierce competition raging on among lawless residents in the capital to break every local government bye-law and give chaos a whole new meaning. This week, Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Alhassan appeared to think he has a war on his hands and so he has indeed but there are actually two of them, as his operations commander Deputy Commissioner John Kudalor will confirm.

In the wake of violent clashes between platoons of police officers and rampaging armed bands off Gamel Nasser Avenue at Cantonments over a disputed plot of land this week, the IGP who reckoned he was dealing with a problem of police brutality ordered investigations into the commotion which ended with the arrest of scores people described as land guards.

Commander Kudalor spoke less of brutality on the part of his men and more about the so-called land guards phenomenon being an ever-worsening menace that needs to be confronted more resolutely. The news is that I agree with him. The solution to the problem of the armed men known as land guards must necessarily begin with an immediate expunging of the word from the vocabulary of law enforcement and indeed the daily conversation of Ghanaians.

Why? Well, because they are not supposed to exist, Jomo: It is a highly criminal violation of the law for anyone to train and arm people. The so-called land guards are illegal private armies who considered from more than one perspective,  are an ever-present internal security threat.

NB: For some of those extremely lucky to have had electricity supply for any decent length of time this week, Jomo, the glow from electric lamps was so incredibly dim, that pitch darkness would have been much brighter!

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