Friday, August 31, 2012

Judges asked ot assert independence in December 2012 electoral disputes

AUGUST 29, 2012 (Centre Spread) THE Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, has directed judges to assert their independence in adjudicating electoral disputes in the December 2012 general election. “As the Judicial branch of government, we are always under close public scrutiny. As we carry out our constitutional responsibilities in this election year, we will be judged by the public. I, therefore, urge you to assert your independence and be guided only by the evidence tendered before you and the applicable constitutional, statutory and decisional laws of the land.” Speaking at the opening ceremony of a one-day training programme on election adjudication process for justices of the High Court and Circuit Court judges in Ghana, Mrs Justice Wood said “I trust that you will not under any circumstances succumb to extra judicial influences. As has always been the case, I pledge you my fullest support in this regard.” The participants who were drawn from across the country were taken through rules and regulations set out in the revised manual on election adjudication to build their capacity in order to efficiently deliberate and resolve electoral disputes that might arise before, during and after the 2012 polls. Topics treated included overview and objectives of the programme, parliamentary election disputes, discussion on election offences and general discussions on electoral laws of the country. The resources persons included Dr Bimpong Buta, a member of the Electoral Manual Committee; Mr Justice Jones Dotse, a Justice of the Supreme Court and Board Chairman of the Judicial Training Institute (JTI); Mr Justice S. Marful-Sau, a Court of Appeal Judge and Director of JTI, and Professor Kofi Kumado, a law lecturer. According to the Chief Justice, electoral justice was the medium for preserving, protecting, defending and enjoying electoral rights, adding “it offers opportunity to aggrieved persons those who believe their electoral rights have been compromised or violated in one way or the other to file complaints criminal or civil and obtain a fair, just and expeditious adjudication.” She further reminded the judges that the electoral justice system of which they were the lead actors represented the ultimate guarantee of free, fair and genuine elections and thus placed on them the onerous responsibility of ensuring that the entire electoral process conformed to Ghana’s legal framework. Mrs Justice Wood said the hallmark of any credible justice system was the timeliness with which criminal complaints and disputes were disposed of, judgments and decisions fully enforced. “In this regard, the timeliness, the transparency, objectivity, integrity, impartiality, firmness, diligence and professionalism with which electoral complaints and disputes are fully, effectually and finally resolved in order to place the final seal of legitimacy on the entire process is very important,” she said. She further reminded the judges that they had a constitutional duty to dispose of electoral cases expeditiously to avoid the accompanying mistrust and suspicion that went with delayed justice. The Chief Justice commended the judges for taking time off their recess “to respond to the call of national duty.” For his part, Mr Justice Dotse advised the participants to be mindful of their comments, adding “let your opinion be in your mind and state it in your judgment.”

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