Chief Justice Under Intense Fire Over Summons To Top Lawyer -Asked About Ken Agyapong’s Contempt Case?

Chief Justice Anim-Yeboah, Dominc Ayine, H. Kwasi Prempeh and William Nyarko Chief Justice Anim-Yeboah, Dominc Ayine, H. Kwasi Prempeh and William Nyarko

The Chief Justice, has come under intense criticism for dragging one of the country's respected lawyers; Dr. Dominic Ayine, before the General Legal Council, which he heads.

From various quarters, Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah, is being bashed for asking the General Legal Council, to investigate the comments made by the former deputy Attorney General with many, saying he had overstepped his bounds, while others accused him of trying to instill a "culture of silence" in the country.

Legal luminary, Professor Stephen Kwaku Asare, observed that the Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah dragging Dr. Ayine, who doubles as the Member of Parliament for Bolgatanga East over his comment on judiciary independence, is evident that the country is witnessing the 'Culture of silence'.

A youth activist, Ekow Djan, has criticized Chief Justice for his action against Dr. Ayine, asking whether "CJ Anim-Yeboah was in Ghana when Kennedy Agyepong sat on a National TV to insult and [allegedly] threatened to kill Judges."

Dr. Ayine reportedly questioned the independence of Ghana's judiciary in a CDD-Ghana Roundtable Discussion on 'Presidential Election Petitions and their Impact on Africa's Democracy'.

The Editor-In-Chief of the New Crusading Guide, also described as an "overkill", the Chief Justice's decision to drag the Bolgatanga East MP before the disciplinary committee of the General Legal Council (GLC) over comments he made against the Supreme Court.

Abdul Malik Kweku Baako Jnr on JoyNews' News file on Saturday, called on Kwasi Anin-Yeboah to accommodate Dr Anyine's comments for which the latter has been hauled to the GLC for investigation.

Dr Anyine's assertion, he explained, was informed by the manner in which the 2020 Presidential Election Petition case was handled by the Supreme Court.

During the discussion, Dr. Ayine among other things said that the Supreme Court in the adjudication of the election petition failed to apply the rules of procedure and continuously dismissed the plaintiff's applications. "I expected the Supreme Court to faithfully apply the rules of procedure to – in terms of adducing evidence – prove the petitioner's case and so on.

What we saw was a Supreme Court that was constantly putting hurdles in the way of the petitioner in terms of adducing evidence to prove the petitioner's case.

" Commenting on this development in a short statement, Mr Ekow Djan who is also an educationist noted that worse comments have been passed about judges in this country by other persons yet nothing was heard from the Chief Justice.

"CJ Anim-Yeboah was in Ghana when Kennedy Agyepong sat on a National TV to insult and [allegedly] threatened to kill Judges," the statement said. It further accused the Chief Justice of pretending he never heard of it. "Dr. Ayine speaks at a forum and the CJ goes haywire? Please, the Office of the CJ is a dignified one."

Executive Director of the Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) Professor H Kwesi Prempeh has also described the action taken by the Chief Justice Anin-Yeboah as bizarre, and ill-advised.

Professor Prempeh in a Facebook post said "That an opinion expressed at such a forum, to contestation from other participants, would cause anyone to lodge a formal complaint with the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council is unprecedented, bizarre, and ill-advised."

He added "So, now members of the Ghana Bar cannot offer a personal unflattering opinion of the judiciary on an academic, a civil society or other public discussion platform, even after a case has been decided, without risking being hauled before the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council? Really?

"On the same platform where this lawyer expressed the opinion that has earned him an invitation to appear before the Disciplinary Committee of the legal profession's regulator, other panelists, including other lawyers, strongly disagreed with him in his opinion of the judiciary regarding the case under discussion, with some praising the court's handling of the matter.

In other words, the platform on which the lawyer spoke was a veritable marketplace of ideas and opinion, with panelists debating each other in frank, open dialogue.

"This, incidentally, was a webinar discussion organized by CDD-Ghana, in collaboration with the KNUST law faculty, as part of a new "Judicial Review" series (a partnership between CDD and two law faculties in Ghana) that aims to review and examine decisions of the courts for their impact on democracy and good governance.

This particular panel, which examined the recent Ghana election petition through a comparative lens, featured two foreign participants (from Kenya and Zimbabwe), four Ghanaian lawyers, and me.

"That an opinion expressed at such a forum, to contestation from other participants, would cause anyone to lodge a formal complaint with the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council is unprecedented, bizarre, and ill-advised.

Not only is this bound to have a chilling effect on the free speech rights of lawyers, it will also impact negatively on both academic freedom and the freedom and ability of civil society to promote judicial accountability, including through projects like the Judicial Review series.

"I find no justification whatsoever for the Disciplinary Committee of the GLC to be brought into this matter or to investigate Dr. Dominic Akuritinga Ayine for the opinion he expressed on the panel. It cannot be ok for a lawyer to praise a court for its handling of a matter but an act of professional misconduct–or contempt of court–for another lawyer to express a contrary view of the same court about the same matter."

CDD Ghana Fellow for Public Law and Justice, Prof. Stephen Kweku Asare, expressed doubts that the much talked about 'Culture of Silence' is non-existent in the country.

Also speaking on Joy News' Newsfile Saturday, June 5, the Accounting Professor aka Kweku Azar, said the feud between Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah and Dr Dominic Ayine shows that the 'Culture of silence' never left the system.

But the vociferous Accounting Professor, Prof Asre disagrees with the decision to haul the MP before the General Legal Council for speaking his mind.

Mr Asare said, "If we cannot criticize and if we cannot offer opinions on judgments written by the court, basically, they have become dictators. And basically, they are not accountable to anyone. The constitution did not anticipate that kind of arrangement at all."

He stated some of the harshest criticisms made against judges come from judges themselves.

"When you read opinions where some judges are dissenting, they sometimes say the majority is irrational, the majority ignores precedence, and the majority is out of their depth on this matter."

Kweku Azar said criticism is a treasured aspect of the legal profession, and thus the referral of Dr Ayine to the court is "unprecedented, unnecessary, unfortunate, unwise and quite frankly unjust".

According to him, all that Dr Ayine did was to express a subjective view and nowhere in his statement did he claim that the judiciary lacks independence.

"If you talk to 10 million Ghanaians on the election petition, you're going to get 10 million opinions. Are we then going to refer 10 million Ghanaians to the General Legal Council to investigate?

"The disciplinary process is extremely serious because it imposes costs on whoever is sent there. You have to defend yourself, and potentially, you could be suspended, you could be disbarred, you could be reprimanded, you could be asked to offer an apology," he said.

According to Mr Baako, the outspoken legislator was at an "appropriate forum" dubbed "Judicial Dialogue Review Series," therefore, his comments must be considered a constructive criticism instead of an attack against the Judiciary.

"This forum, I think is an appropriate one that should enable and allow criticism of any judicial pronouncement or verdict. And I think within that context, I am prepared to be charitable, liberal and accommodating.

"But perhaps the CJ's thing is an overkill, in my candid opinion. Here was a situation where it was a give and take. Judicial decisions being subjected to criticisms is normal and constructive so generally speaking, I think we should be able to accommodate that situation and allow it to pass," he told host Samson Lardy Anyenini.

Dr Ayine, a member of former President Mahama's legal team during the 2020 Election petition, questioned the judiciary's independence about how the Supreme Court arbitrated the Election Petition.

He was speaking at a Judicial review dialogue series last month on Presidential Election Petitions and their impact on Africa's Democracy, organised by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD Ghana) in collaboration with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Law Faculty.

Dr Ayine maintained that the posture of the Supreme Court throughout the Election Petition hearing suggests that it had a "pre-determined agenda" to rule against the petitioner, John Dramani Mahama.

He made a similar statement during the hearing of the petition at a press briefing on February 16, 2021. The MP was found guilty of contempt of the Supreme Court but was discharged after he apologised.

In the petition filed to the General Legal Council, the Judicial Secretary, Cynthia Pamela Akotoaa Addo, stated that Dr Ayine's alleged repeat of such statement has displeased the Chief Justice, thus the call for him to be investigated.

"His Lordship the Chief Justice, therefore, finds these alleged disparaging comments totally unacceptable and would like you to investigate this matter further," the petition read.