Restore Judicial Integrity – Ayine

Dr Dominic Ayine
THE DEPUTY Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dr Dominic Ayine, has asked the Chief Justice to restore integrity to the judiciary. He noted that excellent legal briefs no longer count at the country’s courts and consequently proposed that the head of the judiciary should make it compulsory for judges and court staff to recite Article 40 of Magna Carta, which reads: ‘To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay right or justice’, every morning before the commencement of the day’s business.

Addressing members of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) in Kumasi on Monday, Dr Ayine said if any judge, court registrar or clerk does not agree to abide by this principle, he/she should either resign or apply the proper rules of option so that the market will determine the prosecution price payable.

His comment comes on the heels of the recent bribery scandal that has rocked the judiciary, with 22 circuit court judges and 12 high court judges implicated in the latest exposé of ace investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas.

‘Unfortunately, at the risk of generalising too much, it appears to me that with the exception of the Supreme Court, and to some extent the Court of Appeal, good legal arguments no longer count before our courts,’ he observed.

According to the Deputy Attorney General, rule of law and access to justice cannot flourish in the Ghanaian society if those who man the country’s judicial system lack moral and ethical integrity, asking rhetorically, ‘If gold rusts what shall iron do?’

In his view, the rule of law in the hands of a perverse judiciary is a very dangerous weapon, arguing that the rule of law in the service of an immoral legal regime will definitely be immoral.

Speaking under the theme, ‘Rule of Law, Access to Justice and Sustainable Development – The Panacea to Political and Economic Progress of a Nation State’, he intimated that an independent judiciary was an indisputable part of the rule of law.

‘Among the three coequal practices of government, it is the distinct and sacrosanct constitutional duty of the judicial branch to say what the law is and to ensure adherence to the law by the political branches,’ Dr Ayine noted, and added that this cannot happen unless the judiciary has integrity.

For him, judicial integrity demands that judges observe the law well and come out with rulings that are supported by sound legal reasoning.

‘It is not sufficient to know the law, but a person appointed as judge must commit to observe the law well. A judge who observes the law well will appreciate an excellent brief written and filed by counsel, and would not look the other way and give a ruling unsupported by sound legal reasoning,’ the Deputy Attorney General added.

Dr Ayine said either the judges are lazy or they are corrupted by influences other than the law. He intimated that his remarks were made in good faith and should never be construed as an attack on the judiciary, pointing out that there are people of integrity on the bench.

‘A lawyer with integrity must play by the rules of the game because that is what promotes the rule of law and access to justice,’ the Deputy Attorney General charged.

According to him, obedience to law must come as a second nature to a person nurtured in the law, and lawyers for that matter have a critical role to play in promoting the rule of law and ensuring equal access to justice.

‘Judges, as human as they are, cannot be faulted for not obeying the law when lawyers behave unethically by approaching them in their homes and chambers, rather than open court, with influences other than excellent legal briefs,’ he observed.

He continued: ‘Judges cannot be faulted for not appreciating excellent legal briefs if lawyers on both sides are not interested in competing to forth sound legal arguments, but are rather keen on using other means to achieve an end of serving the best interest of their clients.’

Dr Ayine argued that anecdotal evidence abounds that there is lack of integrity at the bar, but was quick to add that there are good lawyers among members of the legal fraternity.

On his part, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Asantehene, stated that the nation was on its knees, having been struck down by the tsunami of a scandal that threatens to wash away the integrity of the entire judicial arm of government.

‘I speak with the pain of a nation betrayed, and the anguish of a people ravaged, whose faith in their nation’s most cherished institutions now lies crushed,’ the king lamented as he addressed the opening ceremony of the Annual General Conference of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) in Kumasi yesterday.

He said great luminaries of Ghana’s legal history such as Sir Arku Korsah, Sir Henley Coussey, Edward Akufo-Addo, Quarshie-Idun, Sir Leslie M’Carthy and Nii Amaa, who combined intellect and wisdom with over-arching integrity to build the judicial system, might be turning in their graves by the latest judicial scandal.

The king stated that he believed in the capacity of Ghanaians, beyond the pain and anguish, to rise from the ashes of despair, asserting that the world can be assured that the commitment of the nation to democracy is irreversible.

‘…everyone is aware that the commitment, however, will be hollow without a robust, credible judicial arm,’ he noted and added that there was no way Ghanaians would allow the judicial arm or any other institution to wither away the democracy of the country.

According to the Asantehene, the nation cannot afford any compromises or risk throwing out the baby with the bath water, and intimated that while the legal and administrative processes continue, the national interest required the citizenry to begin cleaning the stables anew and rebuild the foundations for a strong, indestructible, transparent and morally upright judicial service.

From Ernest Kofi Adu & I.F. Joe Awuah Jnr., Kumasi

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