Times without number, people have lamented about how the wheels of justice grinds slowly in Ghanaian courts.
There are numerous complaints from people who show up in court only for the case to be adjourned. In fact, a matter can be adjourned indefinitely.
There are times a court can prevent parties to a land dispute from working on the land for years – by way of an injunction – thereby rendering the land ‘useless’ during the pendency of the litigation.
I have heard questions like, why is the court dragging its feet? ; This is a simple and straightforward matter.
Respectfully, if it were that simple and straightforward, it would not have ended in court to begin with.
A friend of mine lamented about his frustration with our courts. The said friend’s complaint is what engineered this article.
My friend told me how a land he purchased years ago has fallen into litigation. He said the matter has travelled over a decade in court.
He was so furious that he said some unprintable things about the entire justice system in Ghana.
My worry though was the fact that this friend of mine had little to no knowledge about the mandate of our courts.
Let me attempt to explain what our courts are mandated to do. Courts are creatures of statute. This means that every court is created by legislation.
Be it a superior or lower court, they are created by either the Constitution of Ghana or the Court’s Act, 1993 (act 459).
It should be noted that the statute which creates the court defines its mandate.
However, irrespective of the specific mandate spelt out in the statute which created a court, courts are essentially to interpret and enforce laws that are passed by parliament.
Let me remind readers that Ghana is a democratic nation and as such we are governed by the Rule of Law.
You and I have a role to play in which law(s) should remain in our books. This is done through our parliamentarians.
Need I remind readers that our parliamentarians are selected by ballot to represent us to make laws – hence you and I are responsible for the laws that exist in Ghana.
It is rather unfortunate that the selection of persons to be voted as our representatives in parliament is not given the needed critical attention it requires.
Most often than not, we tend to vote for the highest bidder who may know little or nothing about what is required of a parliamentarian.
Also, the Constitution spells out ways to repeal a legislation, be it Constitutional or Statutory provision.
What am I trying to say? All that I seek to convey is that, our courts exist to interpret laws made by parliament.
The fundamental principle binding all courts is the rule of natural justice (nemo iudex in causa sua and audi alteram partem).
This means, the courts should grant every litigant a fair hearing and should be seen to do justice. This is done in line with the laws which have been passed by parliament.
That is why even when someone is caught in flagrante delicto (red handed) he is still permitted to explain himself and presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
I doubt we would want Ghana to adopt a system whereby the supreme ruler or authorities decide on matters based on their conscience and emotions.
If you have a case in court which you think is delaying, it simply means the law is working. I personally recommend that litigants should try arbitration as it is tried and tested to be a much expedited and less adversarial way of dispute resolution.
Till then, be minded to participate in legal issues (like Constitution review, selection of Parliamentarians, et al)
God bless our homeland Ghana and make us great and strong.
The writer is a Lawyer and Law Lecturer with Ghana’s foremost media school (GH Media School).