Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Monday February 19, 2018
A said controversial research finding released by former Executive Secretary of ex-President John Mahama has riled top judges in the country.
Prof. Raymond Atuguba of the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, released the findings last week which indicate that Ghana’s Supreme Court judges decide political cases taking into consideration the governments that appointed them.
The judges, led by Chief Justice Sophia A.B. Akuffo, are however, not taking kindly to the outcome of the research by Prof. Atuguba - who is a nephew of Supreme Court judge William Atuguba - and have expressed their disapproval in the strongest terms.
Prof Atuguba, who traced the voting patterns of Supreme Court judges from 1993 to 2018, said he analysed 100 political cases settled by the highest court, saying it revealed that on matters “where the law is not clear the judges were divided along the ideologies of the political parties that appointed them.”
According to him, 14 out of 22 National Democratic Congress (NDC) appointees to the Supreme Court had given judgment in favour of the NDC whilst 13 of the 16 judges appointed by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) gave judgements in favour of the party.
Leading the charge, the Chief Justice said Prof. Atuguba’s work is alien to Ghana and appears to fault the premise for the whole research.
“It is an American type of research that you have done...that’s fine, but please be careful what you are importing into our environment,” she cautioned, adding, “They (Americans) are used to that, we are not. I don’t think there was a single judge who agreed with what you were saying.
“Under the Constitution, a judge will be appointed during somebody’s time...and that somebody will belong to one party or the other.”
The Chief Justice confronted Prof. Atuguba during his presentation of the findings at the 2018 GIMPA Law Conference where some superior court judges were in attendance last Thursday.
She insisted that matters are decided by the top judges in line with the law and said they are supposed to be ‘sound and factual.
The CJ cautioned the law lecturer not to introduce ‘alien practices’ into the Ghanaian setting.
A Supreme Court judge, Justice Jones Victor Dotse, who was present at the presentation of the research findings, did not hide his disappointment when he said the entire research is an affront to the judges.
“You are entitled to your views,” he told Prof. Atugaba, adding, “I think it is an insult of the highest order.”
Justice Irene Charity Larbie of the Court of Appeal said Prof. Atuguba’s research is a direct attack on the integrity of justices of the Supreme Court.
However, Prof. Atuguba was adamant, saying he was not the least surprised that there was negative reaction to his findings.
“Words are just nothing to me,” he said, adding, "The first time I did a critical analysis of the police the next morning eight fully armed officers were dispatched by the IGP to arrest me from my office,” he claimed.
"What should we do with these analyses? Should we stop doing them, should we have another way of funneling it to the public, what should we do?" he asked rhetorically.
"I will never insult anyone, not to talk of the judges, I am engaged in a critical analysis of our political institutions (and) critical analysis always meets opposition," he noted.
“It is not a coincidence that this happened...and it will soon be discovered by the general populace and it may be too late then to gain public trust and respect for the court. The time to act is now,” Prof. Atuguba urged.
Justice Francis Emile Short, former chairman of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), asked Prof. Atuguba to publish the research findings, saying it would elicit constructive critique from the academia.
"Publish it...I would like to see it," he told Joy FM on Friday, claiming, “Academic research is useful if we can critique the methodology."
He said, “It would be critical to find out how a case was determined as political and how the researcher reached the conclusion that a judge favoured the appointing authority. If the conclusions are valid, then there are lessons to be learned.”
Prof. Stephen Kwaku Asare aka Kwaku Azar, a United States-based Ghanaian law don who has been leading a crusade against certain obnoxious public laws, described the judges’ ‘negative’ reactions towards the research findings as an attack on academic freedom.”
He said the research by Prof. Atuguba only provided ‘empirical data’ to confirm ‘popular perception’ that political appointments of judges have influenced their voting patterns on political cases.
Prof Asare said on Joy FM that the findings of Prof. Atuguba did not surprise him, saying, “it is consistent with what people have been saying."
He said the law is not "arithmetic where two plus two amounts to four; what Atuguba is saying is hardly controversial.”