Former Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni.  
Former Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni.  
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Chief Justice did not violate 1992 Constitution in constituting a panel in Opuni's appeal - AG

The Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice has refuted media reports that sought to indicate that the Chief Justice violated the country's 1992 Constitution in constituting a panel to hear an appeal in the Supreme Court in a case involving a former Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni.  

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According to the AG's office, the persistent attempts by some media houses aligned to Dr Opuni to distort the effect of court proceedings relating to the prosecution of the former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board in many a time, are a gross misrepresentation of the evidence led at the trial. 

"These publications, many a time, are a gross misrepresentation of the evidence led at the trial, intended to ridicule the case of the prosecution and create false impressions about the soundness of the defence put up by Dr Opuni at his trial, the AG's office stated in a statement dated, Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

The AG's statement, which was signed by the sector Minister, Godfred Yeboah Dame, said "For the purpose of educating the public, the A-G states that no party to proceedings in court, has a right to insist on a particular court or panel of a court to hear his or her case.

"In accordance with the Constitution and the Courts Act, 1993 (Act 459), the Chief Justice determines the composition of every court for the hearing of any matter."

He added that "The Chief Justice is a member of every court in the country and, has the power to request in writing a Justice of any of the Superior Courts of Judicature to sit on either the Court of Appeal or the High Court at any time."

For him, "consistent with article 128(3) of the Constitution, the Chief Justice presides at sittings of the Supreme Court, and in his absence, the most senior of the Justices of the Supreme Court, as constituted, shall preside."

Below is the AG's full statement 

PRESS RELEASE 

RE: REPUBLIC VRS. DR STEPHEN OPUNI & 2 OTHERS
MISREPRESENTATION OF SUPREME COURT PROCEEDINGS ON 8TH MAY, 2024

The attention of the Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice has been drawn to deliberate misrepresentations in the media (traditional and social) about the composition of a panel to hear an appeal in the Supreme Court in a case entitled “Republic vrs. Dr Stephen Opuni & 2 Others”.

Publications in various newspapers, particularly the Herald, and commentary on social media by some persons including, Prof Kweku Asare, are laden with falsehood and contain an imputation that the composition of the panel for the hearing of the appeal on 8th May, 2024 was unusual, questionable or in violation of the Constitution. 

The Attorney-General and Minister for Justice (A-G), a party to the case in question and owing a constitutional duty to protect the administration of justice from abuse, hereby sets the record.     

1.    Arguments in the appeal filed at the Supreme Court by Dr Stephen Opuni against an order of the Court of Appeal dated 3rd July, 2023, for adoption of evidence led in the case mentioned above, were heard by the Supreme Court on 8th May, 2024, and not on any date before.

2.    The appeal was originally listed for hearing at the Supreme Court on 17th January, 2024. By that day, no written submissions had been filed in the matter. A bare notice of appeal was the only process that had been filed in the proceedings. The Supreme Court also did not invite any of the parties to make oral submissions, either in support of, or in opposition to any of the grounds of appeal filed by the appellant. 

It is thus undisputable that no arguments were heard by the Supreme Court on 17th January, 2024.

3.    The Court rather gave directions for the future hearing of the matter by, ordering the appellant, Dr Opuni, to file his written submissions within 21 days, and the respondent, the Republic, to file her written submissions within 21 days of being served with the appellant’s submissions. The appellant was given a further opportunity to file a reply within seven days of being served with the respondent’s submissions. 

4.    The parties duly complied with the directions of the Court and the appeal was subsequently listed for hearing on 8th May, 2024. On that date, the panel for the hearing of the appeal was reconstituted by the Honourable Chief Justice in exercise of her powers under the Constitution, 1992. 

5.    Counsel for the appellant, Dr Opuni, citing article 157(3) of the Constitution, raised a grotesque and wild objection to the reconstitution of the panel, and in effect, insisted on the previous panel hearing his appeal. 

6.    The A-G prayed the Court to dismiss the objection as misconceived by alluding to the matters set out above, and noted that the operative words in article 157(3) of the Constitution are “… no person sitting in a Superior Court shall, having heard the arguments of the parties to that cause or matter and before judgment is delivered, withdraw as a member of the court …, until judgment is delivered”. There had been neither oral nor written arguments in the matter heard on 17th January, 2024, and therefore article 157(3) was not triggered.

The Court, after considering the submissions of both counsel, overruled the objection.

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7.    The A-G notes the persistent attempts by some media houses aligned to Dr Opuni to distort the effect of court proceedings relating to the prosecution of the former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board. These publications, many a time, are a gross misrepresentation of the evidence led at the trial, intended to ridicule the case of the prosecution and create false impressions about the soundness of the defence put up by Dr Opuni at his trial.

8.    The A-G observes that most of the publications on the “Opuni case”, orchestrated by the accused persons themselves, transgress the limits of permissible speech as they are calculated at perverting the course of justice and/or prejudicing the fair hearing of that case. Nonetheless, the Republic remains focused on adducing cogent evidence in substantiation of the charges against all the accused persons in the case mentioned above and will not be overawed in that process. 

9.    For the purpose of educating the public, the A-G states that no party to proceedings in court, has a right to insist on a particular court or panel of a court to hear his or her case. In accordance with the Constitution and the Courts Act, 1993 (Act 459), the Chief Justice determines the composition of every court for the hearing of any matter. 

10.    The Chief Justice is a member of every court in the country and, has the power to request in writing a Justice of any of the Superior Courts of Judicature to sit on either the Court of Appeal or the High Court at any time. Further, consistent with article 128(3) of the Constitution, the Chief Justice presides at sittings of the Supreme Court, and in his absence, the most senior of the Justices of the Supreme Court, as constituted, shall preside. 

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A deliberate disregard of these basic principles is inimical to the sound adjudication of cases and portends danger for the entire society. END!!! 

GODFRED YEBOAH DAME
THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL & MINISTER FOR JUSTICE

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