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Chief Justice did nothing illegal in recommending more justices to Supreme Court bench - Majority caucus

The Majority caucus in Parliament has stated that the Chief Justice committed no illegality when she wrote a letter to the President recommending that the number of Justices on the Supreme Court bench should be increased to enable the court to handle the numerous cases pending before it.

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Speaking to the press in Parliament House on Monday [July 8], the Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin said the alarming proportion of cases the apex court was inundated with, made the recommendation by Chief Justice Gertrude Torkornoo justifiable.

“The Chief Justice has not done anything illegal, immoral nor unconstitutional in respect of her recommendation for the need to increase the number of justices at the Supreme Court,” he said.

Letter 

In a letter to the President, the Chief Justice proposed the appointment of Justices Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, Cyra Pamela Koranteng, Eric Kyei Baffour, Edward Amoako Asante and Angelina Mensah Homiah, all justices on bench of the Court of Appeal, onto the Supreme Court bench. 

This, she believed, would enable the court to handle the numerous cases pending before it.

CJ had constitutional mandate

The Majority Leader said the Chief Justice mooted the proposal to expand the Supreme Court to 20 judges for efficiency and effectiveness of justice delivery.

He said some people had claimed that the CJ did not have the mandate to do so but the Majority Leader disagreed with that position.

He said per article 125 (4) of the Constitution there were some inherent powers provided for in such provisions that allowed the CJ as the Chief Executive and head of the Judiciary to make such proposals.

“The Chief Justice shall subject to this constitution, be head of the judiciary, and shall be responsible for the administration and supervision of the judiciary,” he quoted article 125 (5).

“When somebody is in charge of the management of a body, he is able to determine how to run the place efficiently and what will make the work of that institution to be properly done and to make proposals within the context of the law,” he said.

Touching on what the law says on the composition of the Supreme Court, Mr Afenyo-Markin quoted Article 128 (1) of the Constitution which provides that "The Supreme Court shall consist of the Chief Justice and not less than nine other Justices of the Supreme Court."

He argued that the framers of the Constitution, in their wisdom, gave a minimum sealing in anticipation that there could be the possibility in the future to increase the number of Justices at the apex that.

“That is why they did not provide for upper sealing; so, if you read this and juxtapose against article 125 (4) clearly you cannot argue that any increase in the number of judges at the Supreme Court above 10 is unconstitutional or that the CJ is wrong in making such suggestion or proposal,” he said.

Timing 

Touching on some discussions within the public domain about the CJ’s proposal, the Majority Leader said what critics had failed to do was that they had not looked at the justification provided for in the analysis made by the Chief Justice.

He said the Chief Justice did not write a letter to the President about her proposal “sitting on stilt” but justified it and made very compelling argument for the proposal.

He said the Ghana Bar Association was duly consulted and the association, in principle, agreed to same as such other stakeholders agreed to the need to expand the court.

On the timing of the appointment, Mr Afenyo-Markin said an institution like the Judiciary, with its constitutional mandate to deliver justice, was not bound by the election timetable of the country.

“The impression these critics try to create is that all that the Supreme Court does is to determine political cases but I can tell on authority that the political cases that go to the SC may not even be up to two per cent of the cases that they deal with.

“So, the narrow path taken by these critics to create the impression about the timing of the proposal is neither here nor there. In any event, to what use or benefit will it be to the President to pack the court or do last minute appointments,” he said. 

Of all the current judges at the Supreme Court, the Leader said there were two justices - Justice Paul Baffoe Bonney and Justice Gabriel Pwamang - who were not appointed by the President.

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“As astute politician as the President is known to be, I do not think that he will want to trigger a debate in the public domain to poison the atmosphere. He will not do that,” he said.

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