After two months of well-deserved vacation, judges, lawyers and auxiliary staff involved in the justice delivery system are back to play their individual roles in ensuring that justice is served to the public.
The 62nd legal year commenced on Monday, October 7, 2019. A legal year (October - July) denotes the period in which the Judiciary and other stakeholders involved in the administration of justice, work.
Majority of judges, lawyers and staff of the Judicial Service go on a break during the period known as the legal vacation (August - September). A few courts, however, operate to prevent a total closure of the Judiciary, an important and indispensable arm of government.
Every legal year comes with its excitement –from landmark Supreme Court decisions to criminal cases involving high personalities.
The 62nd legal year is, however, going to be extra exciting for many reasons.
New Chief Justice
First, a new Chief Justice, the head of the Judiciary and the fourth most powerful person in the country, will definitely be appointed.
The current Chief Justice, Justice Sophia A.B Akuffo, will retire on December 20, 2019, when she will be 70 years, the mandatory age of retirement for Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal as stipulated in Article 145 clause 2 (a) of the 1992 Constitution.
Per Article 144 clause 1 of the 1992 Constitution, the President appoints a Justice of the Supreme Court as Chief Justice in consultation with the Council of State and with the approval of Parliament.
Apart from the appointment of a new Chief Justice, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is also likely to appoint new Justices to the Supreme Court to fill the void created by the retirement of Justice Akuffo and the other justices namely Justices Vida Akoto Bamfo and Sophia Adinyera, who retired in February and July this year, respectively.
Another issue which will dominate the 62nd legal year is a case at the Supreme Court challenging the eligibility of Mr Martin Alamisi Amidu, as the Special Prosecutor on the basis of his age.
The case is of utmost significance because alleged corruption cases initiated by Mr Amidu against certain officials have been put on hold by the High Court until the Supreme Court makes a determination on his eligibility to serve in that capacity.
In 2018, a former Deputy Attorney-General (A-G), Dr Dominic Ayine, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bolgatanga East, went to the apex court to argue that
Mr Amidu was ineligible to be the Special Prosecutor because he was 66 years old when he was nominated by the President and approved by Parliament to that position.
It is his contention that by a true and proper interpretation of Articles 190 clause 1(d), 199 (1) , 199(4) and 295 of the 1992 Constitution, the retiring age of all holders of public offices created pursuant to Article 190 (1) (d) was 60 years with an extension not beyond 65.
However, the defence, led by a Deputy A-G, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, argues that not all public officials, including the Special Prosecutor are caught by the compulsory retirement age of 60.
He submitted that it was wrong to stop someone who exercised prosecutorial powers from exercising that power because of his age when the Constitution had not provided for such a constraint.
2020 General Election
The 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections are also expected to have a significant impact on the Judiciary in the 62nd legal year. An election is not only a busy period for political parties and politicians, but also for the Judiciary as it has to adjudicate on the disputes that arise after polls.
Prior to the 2016 general elections, numerous cases were filed at the courts, challenging many aspects of the electoral process and certain decisions of the Electoral
Commission (EC). Notable among the cases was the one by Abu Ramadan and Evans Nimako which led the Supreme Court to order the EC to delete the names of all persons on the electoral roll who registered with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) card.
Other notable cases were the ones filed by the 12 presidential aspirants who were disqualified by the EC on the grounds of not complying with the EC’s requirements.
In October 2016, the Chief Justice at the time, Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, designated 17 specialised courts to deal with elections related disputes that may arise before the December 7, 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.
With the competitive nature of the country’s elections, expect to see more elections related cases at the courts in 2020.