There is no problem with the Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah filing a disciplinary complaint against legal practitioner and Member of Parliament for Bolgatanga East, Dr Dominic Akuritinga Ayine at the General Legal Council (GLC).
According to private legal practitioner and former Member of Parliament for Zebilla, Mr John Ndebugre, the arguments being made by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and other people against the complaint are issues, which should be dealt with when Dr Ayine appears before the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council (GLC).
"I think he [Chief Justice] was the proper person to initiate a complaint because the statement that Dr Ayine made which resulted in this complaint was that, in summary, his confidence in the independence of the judiciary has been shaken somehow by the manner in which the presidential election petition was handled or determined."
The Chief Justice has reported lawyer Dr Dominic Akuritinga Ayine to the Disciplinary Committee of the GLC for statements he allegedly made during a panel discussion on Presidential Election Petitions and their impact on Africa's Democracy.
Dr. Ayine has been accused of questioning the independence of the Judiciary due to the manner the Supreme Court adjudicated the 2020 presidential election petition.
The petition says Dr. Ayine’s basis for his assertion during the discussion is the Supreme Court's failure to apply the rules of procedure as well as the consistent and continuous dismissal of the petitioner's applications or reliefs.
“These comments are made against the backdrop of the Supreme Court discharging Dr. Ayine on a charge of contempt for similar comments made against members of the Supreme Court during the Election Petition hearing. Dr. Ayine apologized profusely when he appeared before the Court on the Contempt charge and admitted to having made comments which were unbecoming of a Lawyer of his standing and a former Deputy Attorney-General."
Dr. Ayine, in his eleven-paged response to the CJ's complaint, is insisting that his comments did not attack the reputation of the justices who sat on the election petition case.
He insists that his comments were in good faith.
“As I have stated in this response, as a lawyer, I have a special responsibility to engage in criticism of the work of the judiciary. By reason of my training and experience, I am better placed than most of my fellow citizens to point out deficiencies in judgments and in the performance by the judiciary of its core constitutional mandate.”
He further posited that his comments were within the confines of fair and temperate speech.
The main opposition political party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) at a press conference in Accra on Monday asked the Chief Justice to withdraw his disciplinary complaint against Dr Ayine.
Disagreeing with positions that the Chief Justice should withdraw the complaint and that he has no locus to file such a complaint, Mr Ndebugre said Dr Ayine was not talking about an individual member of the panel or the members of the panel who were just seven. He wasn't talking about combination of them. He talked about the whole judiciary and the Chief Justice is the head of the judiciary and therefore he was the proper person to lay the complaint.
Speaking in a radio interview monitored by Graphic Online on Accra based Citi FM on Tuesday evening (June 22, 2021), Mr Ndebugre said: "I think that there is no problem about the Chief Justice laying the complaint."
Comparing that to what happened in 1996 - the Republic against Mensah Bonsu, Stephen Quarcoo and Tommy Thompson - in that case Mensah Bonsu attacked an individual judge, Justice Abban and therefore he made the complaint and then the Attorney-General took it up from there and prosecuted the matter on behalf of the judiciary or the court.
No problem about CJ filing complaint
"So I think that there is no problem about the Chief Justice laying the complaint.
The other matter is that, Dominic Ayine was Deputy Attorney-General, and he and his boss at that time took people to the criminal court, proceeding to the civil court... so if the Attorney-General approves the prosecution of a person, can somebody say that no, the person was expressing freedom of speech... therefore he should not be sent to court. No, you are to go to the court and make your case, and state your case, and say that you were not guilty of the offence charged. So in the same measure, the Chief Justice thinks that the statement was untoward so far as the independence of the judiciary is concerned. So you go there, all those arguments that are being bandied about now, both by the NDC and Dr Ayine himself are matters that should be at the Disciplinary Committee," Mr Ndebugre added.
Insisting that he does not want to discuss the merits, he maintained that there are two forms, it is like contempt, whiles the matter is still pending, which is you are interfering with the administration of justice if you make prejudicial statements whiles the case is still pending, then after the judgment has been given and you make statements that scandalise the courts, you can be pursued for that.
If you lose a case in court, you can say that you don't agree, "but to say that... I say that I don't want to discuss the merits, all I'm doing now is that I don't agree with the position that because in the view of the political party, he [Dr Ayine] was expressing his right to free expression and therefore the matter should not be pursued. I don't agree."
"The point is that you must go to the Disciplinary Committee and state there that you were exercising your right to free expression, but you cannot say that the Chief Justice cannot make a complaint, he is the head of the judiciary, and you say your confidence in the judiciary has been dampened because of the way the case was handled. So he should go there [GLC], and point out those aspects of the handling of the case that led him to the conclusion that the judiciary in Ghana is not independent."
Asked about the notion that the Chief Justice chairs the GLC and therefore the Disciplinary Committee, is a sub-committee of his court and therefore he was sending Ayine to his own "court" to be tried, Mr Ndebugre replied, "are you saying that those who constitute the Disciplinary Committee are robots, and that they are going to take instructions from the Chief Justice. When you do these things, you don't help the development of our democracy. Freedom of speech does not mean that you can just say whatever you like."
He used the Parliamentary Disciplinary Committee where the legislature has been dragging people there, "have those people not been expressing their views or expressing their rights to free speech. If you go and say that errh! Parliamentarians are all corrupt without any evidence, you will be dragged to Privileges Committee... why are you saying that you cannot be questioned in another forum?
"I'm not saying that the Chief Justice is right or wrong. All I'm saying is that the Chief Justice has made a complaint, as far as I am concerned he is the right person to make the complaint because the statement was against the judiciary, the independence of the judiciary, and he is the head of the judiciary and he has to come forward with a complaint. The complaint doesn't mean that you have been condemned, you are to go there and make all the arguments that you are making with press conferences and so on, and then the matter will be determined. It is only when you go there and there is evidence of bias, that you can start complaining but I think at this stage, it is premature and I'll advise Ayine to try and go to the Disciplinary Committee and make his case, it is in their interest for them to go and prove the Chief Justice wrong."