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Oppression of our courts is unhealthy for Ghana’s democracy

Supreme Court
Supreme Court

The petitioner Mr. John Dramani Mahama through his lead Counsel, Lawyer Tsatsu Tsikata petitioned the Apex court of the land for the elections to be annulled.

But the Conducts of the Supreme Court Judges In respect of the petitions seems the judges have made up their minds even before the petitioner brought his petition According to courts of public opinion.

The lastest article relating to what is in the public is A statement issued and Copied to the media today by Lawyer Eric Delanyo Alifo.

READ HIS FULL STATEMENT BELOW

The Tyranny Of The Courts In A Democracy Is Dangerous And Must Stop.

The views I express here constitute my understanding of what the law is on this subject universally, or what it ought to be, or must be in order to make sense, and to boost true freedom of speech and democracy. If the law operates differently in Ghana, then in my view, not only is it abusive, it is also oppressive and atrocious, and must be condemned.

Our courts are expected to protect us from the abuse of governmental power with the tendency to take away or impair our inalienable rights that may be fundamental to our existence, or granted by the constitution. The courts must be friendly sanctuary for us against undemocratic, autocratic, and repressive regimes.

The courts must not be too quick or too willing to put citizens in jail for contempt of court resulting from merely statements made by those citizens. When people defy clear court orders, there is no question that they are in contempt of the court. Other than this, as far as I know, citizens may be in contempt of court in two common circumstances – when they scandalize the court, or when they breach the sub judice rule.

1. Scandalizing a Court

-Insult:

When you insult a judge for a decision he or she has made in a case, or for his, or her conduct in relation to a case in court, so as to bring the reputation of the judge or the court into disrepute, you may held for contempt of court.

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Threaten:

When you threaten a judge of a court because of his or her official duties in the court, or when you threaten the court itself, you may be held in contempt of court.

False Allegation:

When you allege falsely that a judge has taken a bribe or has been enticed in other ways to rule in a case in a particular way, or conduct the case in such a way, you are a clear candidate for contempt of court.

Other Despicable Acts:

Those devious and outragious lies and gossips about judges in relation to their official duties in court may land you in contempt of court.

I SEE NO CONTEMPT IN THE FF:

Expression of Negative Personal Perception:

An expressed personal perception that a judge or a court is biased in an ongoing case cannot be contemptuous of the court. The perception may be wrong, and the judge may be angry, but I don’t see how a person’s negative perception about a court may make him liable for contempt of court.

Prediction of Judgment

Again if from a person’s close monitoring of a judge or a court, the person predicts how he or she thinks the judge or court may rule in a case, I don’t see how and why that person may be held for contempt. People must be free to think anyhow they like, and express same if they so wish.

In fact, if for instance someone says because of how the Supreme Court is refusing every application the Petitioner in the election petition makes, the next application by the petitioner is very likely to be refused, I cannot get a fix on how this may be tantamount to contempt of the Court.

In the same vein, if a person says from the way a particular litigant is losing every application or issue in court, it appears to him or her that the court has predetermined positions on the issues this particular litigant seeks from the court, I cannot comprehend how this could be a contemptuous statement. It may be a wrong deduction or suspicion, but the person has every right to think anyhow he feels or he is capable of thinking. In actual fact, many people are predicting that the Petitioner has no chance to prevail in the election petition, and so must discontinue the case. Their basis is just how the Court is throwing out every application the Petitioner brings to the Court.

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Closing on the issue of scandalizing a court, it is important for our judges to recognize that there may be just a thin line between what is scandalous and what is acceptable, and so if they really wish to promote true democracy and freedom of expression among citizens, then they must not interpret this concept too broadly so us to be jailing people at the least provocation of the courts and judges, and thereby intimidate the citizenry unnecessarily.

2. Sub judice Rule

All that it means by a matter being sub judice is that the matter is before a court or a judge for consideration or determination. The sub judice rule is very simple.

The rule is that when a matter is in court, there must not be public discussion of the matter in a manner that is likely to influence how the judge or court may determine the matter. Please note that the rule does not bar total discussion of the matter. It only bars the kind of comprehensive discussion in a manner that would have the potential to influence or affect the court’s determination of the matter

Note also that the rule does not necessarily proscribe people from merely predicting the outcome of cases in court.

I stand to be corrected, but in my view the most classic instances of infringing the _sub judice_ rule in recent times was last week, when the Supreme Court had adjourned for ruling in two days later, the issue of whether Mrs. Jean Mensa may lawfully elect not to testify in the ongoing litigation of the election petition and be cross examined, and before the return date, senior lawyers, Messrs Thaddeus Sory and Ace Ankomah had written and released into the media separate exhaustive opinions on the very issue.

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I must emphasize here that if a person claims to have followed the conduct of a case carefully, and so could foretell what the outcome of the case would be, or how the determination of a particular issue may be, I do not at all see any infringement of the sub judice_ rule for which the person may be cited for contempt.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, I wish to plead with our courts, particularly, the Supreme Court, to apply these principles judiciously and, especially, thoughtfully so as the courts would not be seen as being high-handed and overly desirous to intimidate citizens with the risk of imposing hefty fines or prison terms on them at the least provocation of the Justices. In fact, the courts must not be seen to be frightening us into submission. Neither must they tyrannize us and give the impression that they do not want to be criticized.

The courts are our last hope and that is why they have to spare no effort in building our confidence in them. If we have basis to complain about them, and we do so, we must not be victimized, blacklisted, and punished. Our complaints must rather be helpful to them as long as they are not baseless and vilification of the courts. As we critique judgments and some conduct of the courts, let’s also remember to act responsibly. Thanks.

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