Civil Society elements, have started taking on the Chief Justice, Kwasi Anin Yeboah, over what many see as his intolerance and attempt to equate himself to God by gagging Ghanaians from criticizing the third arm of the state; the Judiciary, which he presides as its administrative head.
This follows a letter to the former Deputy Attorney General, Dr. Dominic Ayine from the Judicial Secretary, Justice Cynthia Pamela Addo, hauling the former law lecturer turned politician before the disciplinary committee of the General Legal Council (GLC) for questioning the independence of Ghana's Judiciary.
According to the Judicial Secretary, the Chief Justice, finds Ayine's alleged "disparaging comments unacceptable" and has therefore directed the Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee to set up an investigation into the matter.
But the summons and investigation, has wrecked the nerves of some active civil society activists, including Prof. H Kwesi Prempeh, a trained lawyer and William Nyarko, a journalist, who are incensed at the overbearing attitude of the Chief Justice and they took to social media platforms to express their opinions on the matter.
Prof. Prempeh of CDD-Ghana, described the summons as "unprecedented, bizarre, and ill-advised" while Mr Nyarko noted that "this is definitely a new low for the Judiciary of Ghana and a danger to freedom of expression and academic freedom in Ghana".
A copy of a letter dated May 25, 2021 and addressed to the Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee of the GLC, cited a similar offense during the election petition hearing where Ayine was forgiven and warned against scandalizing the courts and undermining the administration of justice in the country.
"These comments are made against the backdrop of the Supreme Court discharging Dr. Ayine on a charge of contempt for similar comments made against members of the Supreme Court during the Election Petition hearing.
Dr. Ayine apologized profusely when he appeared before the court on the contempt charge and admitted to having made comments which were unbecoming of a Lawyer of his standing and a former Deputy Attorney General."
A copy of an extract of his alleged comments has been forwarded to the GLC for investigations into his alleged attack on the Judiciary.
Dr. Dominic Ayine, recently questioned the independence of the judiciary due to the manner the Supreme Court adjudicated the 2020 election petition.
According to him, the Supreme Court's failure to apply the rules of procedure, as well as the consistent and continuous dismissal of petitioner's applications or reliefs were the basis of his assertion.
"Adjudication is the process of accountability. So for me, it is okay to dismiss an application brought by a petitioner for one relief or the other whether substantive or procedural.
"But it is another thing to fail to apply the rules of procedure in a manner that enhances the accountability process. So at the end of the day, the petition actually dampened my hopes with respect to the independence of the judiciary and its ability to hold the Electoral Commission, in particular, accountable in election petitions," he stressed.
The Bolga East MP, was part of a panel at a CDD-Ghana Roundtable Discussion on 'Presidential Election Petitions and their Impact on Africa's Democracy'.
Not long ago, the same Chief Justice, had written to the news portal Ghanaweb through the same Judicial Secretary, Justice Cynthia Pamela Addo, threatening fire and brimstone for the reporting on a petition filed by the people of Santrokofi, Akpafu Lolobi and Likpe (SALL) over their addition to Oti, following the demarcation of the Volta Region.
The petition had accused Ghana's Judiciary and in particular the Justice Chief for sitting on a writ filed by the SALL people against their addition to the Oti Region by the Justice Stephen Alan Brobbey Commission inaugurated by President Akufo-Addo to collate views on the creation of the six new regions.
Currently, the SALL people have no representation in Parliament, because the Electoral Commission (EC) did not allow them to vote in the 2020 Parliamentary election.
It is believed this was deliberately schemed to have the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) Parliamentary candidate, John Peter Amewu, win that seat through the disenfranchisement of some of registered voters.
During the 2020 election petition hearing, Dr. Ayine, was hauled before the Supreme Court for contempt, on the claim that he had made disparaging remarks about the court.
Dr Ayine was found guilty of contempt for comments he made to the media on February 16, 2021 to the effect that the court had a "pre-determined agenda" to rule against the petitioner in the 2020 presidential election petition, former President John Dramani Mahama.
Shortly, after the election petition hearing in March, this year, the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA), at a press conference, condemned the statement by the Judiciary, describing it as an attempt to stifle press freedom in Ghana.
Thaddeus Sory, acting on the instructions of the Judiciary Service, ordered media houses to "immediately pull down" from their platforms "statements and speeches which convey, and/or insinuate hateful, spiteful, vengeful, incendiary communication against justices of the Supreme Court, especially, those hearing the election petition."
The development attracted wide criticisms with many interpreting it as an attempt to gag or censor the media. It however, appears that the Chief Justice has not learnt any lesson from that episode.
Prof. Prempeh in a piece posted on Facebook on the summons said that "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", adding "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".
He stated that "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".
Mr William Nyarko also took to Facebook, saying "This is definitely a new low for the Judiciary of Ghana and a danger to freedom of expression and academic freedom in Ghana.
The Chief Justice monitors comments or his attention is drawn to comments made by a lawyer at a discussion outside the courtroom (jointly organized by a leading CSO and a law school) analysing the ruling by the Supreme Court on the 2020 presidential election petition and the Chief Justice drags the lawyer to the disciplinary committee of the General Legal Council.
I'm so shocked at the Chief Justice's action I don't even know what else to add!!!!"