499 School of Law admissions: Parliament has no locus - Attorney General contends

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman
Attorney-General (A-G) and Minister of Justice, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame
Attorney-General (A-G) and Minister of Justice, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame

Parliament has no locus to direct the General Legal Council (GLC) on the admission of applicants to the Ghana School of Law (GSL), the Attorney-General (A-G) and Minister of Justice, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, has said.

He said the provisions of Article 32 empowered the Executive, through the minister responsible for the GLC, and not the Legislature, to direct and advise the council on major national issues, including the admission of students.

“While recognising the general legislative powers of Parliament in Ghana, except as have been circumscribed by the Constitution, I am constrained to advise that Parliament is devoid of power through the use of parliamentary resolutions to control the process of admission to the GSL,” the A-G said in a letter addressed to the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban S.K. Bagbin.

Dated November 1, 2021, the letter is in reaction to the parliamentary resolution directing the GLC to admit the 499 candidates who were refused admission to the GSL for the 2021/2022 academic year.

Parliamentary directive

Last Friday, Parliament, by a resolution, directed the GSL to admit all 499 students who passed the recent entrance examination but have been denied admission.

The students sat the entrance examination and obtained the 50 per cent or better pass mark advertised to pursue the professional law programme at the GSL.

“The GLC is directed to proceed and admit all the students who passed the entrance examination, in accordance with the advertised rules of the examination,” the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, who had presided, stated.

In addition, the House directed the A-G to ensure that the resolution passed by the House was implemented.

‘Parliament lacks capacity’

But, the A-G’s letter, which was copied to the Chairman of the GLC, Mr Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah, the Chief Justice, and the Majority Leader and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said Parliament was not clothed with the law to give such directives.

“The mode of exercising legislative power enshrined in Article 106 of the Constitution does not admit of resolutions,” the A-G’s letter said.

President’s action

It said as a result of the constitutional powers granted by the Executive in the matter, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on October 18, 2021, forwarded to him (the A-G) a petition by the 499 candidates for his comments, so that the President could respond to the petition.

“Another petition dated 20th October, 2021 by the National Association of Law Students was also delivered to the President.

"Upon delivery of my comments on the matters raised in both petitions, and following further consultations with my good self, by a letter dated October 26, 2021 (three clear days after the resolution by Parliament), received at my office on October 27, 2021, the President directed me to, pursuant to Section 1(5) of Act 32, make the necessary intervention to the GLC on behalf of the 499 students to address the issue," the letter said.

Vested power

It indicated that, in accordance with Section 13(1)(e) and (f) of the Legal Profession Act, 1960 (Act 32), the power to regulate the admission of students to pursue courses of instruction leading to qualification as lawyers and hold examinations, which might include preliminary, intermediate and final, had been vested in the GLC.

Making reference to Section 1(5) of Act 32 , which stipulates: ‘The council shall, in the performance of its functions, comply with any general directions given by the minister,’ the A-G’s letter said: “In my respectful opinion, this provision underscores the capacity of the Executive, not the Legislature, through the Minister responsible for the GLC, that is, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, to direct and advise the council on major matters of national importance.”

Setting record straight

Setting the records straight on the advertised requirement for admission to the GSL, the letter said the notice in the Daily Graphic of May 13, 2021 inviting applications from suitably qualified Ghanaians for admission to the GSL did not state a pass mark of 50 per cent or any at all as a basis for admission.

It said the notice stated that applicants might be granted admission if they had passed the entrance examination conducted by the GLC for the 20221/2022 academic year, on payment of the required fee and submission of the application form and all supporting documents required online.

The notice also did not state the manner in which a pass mark set by the GLC would be determined, it said.

“It is clear, therefore, that a contention that the ‘originally announced’ or ‘advertised’ pass mark was 50 per cent is erroneous and insupportable,” the A-G’s letter said.