Supreme Court Judge Justice Jones Dotse has fought off claims that his impartiality is in question, barely hours to the Supreme Court delivering a key ruling.
A seven-member Supreme Court Panel is expected to deliver its ruling in a review application filed by Attorney General Godfred Yeboah Dame on Tuesday.
Mr Dame is asking the Apex court to set aside its July 2021 close call of a 3-2 decision that barred Justice Clemence Honyenuga from continuing as Judge in the trial of former COCOBOD CEO, Dr Stephen Opuni.
The Apex Court, after hearing oral arguments on Tuesday, October 12, adjourned proceedings to October 26 to deliver its ruling.
In July this year, Dr Opuni’s lawyers applied to the Supreme Court, asking that it restrains Justice Honyenuga from hearing the matter.
He alleged that his right to be heard fairly had been breached by the Judge aside from a demonstration of bias.
The allegations flowed from Justice Honyenuga’s ruling on a submission of no case application. Dr Opuni’s lawyers contend the judge committed an error of law when he rejected some documents submitted as evidence.
On the allegation of bias against the Judge, the lawyers explained that the Judge made some prejudicial comments in his submission of no case ruling.
“All these were perpetuated to facilitate the 2nd and 3rd accused’s business and defraud COCOBOD. Indeed these acts were all perpetuated to facilitate and intentionally, voluntarily to aid the 2nd and 3rd accused to perpetrate fraud on COCOBOD by supplying a different product from what was tested and approved.”
Page 54 again. “…However, the 1st accused, although he knew the correct state of affairs, knowingly facilitated and aided the 2nd and 3rd accused to defraud COCOBOD.”
The case was heard by Justices Jones Dotse, A.M Dordzie, Amadu Tanko, and Lovelace Johnson and Gabriel Pwamang.
Justice Gabriel Pwamang, who wrote the lead judgment, concluded as follows; “The test is an objective one based on the principle that not only must justice be done, but it must be seen to be done. As the authorities say, bias is so insidious that the judge himself may not even be aware that he has a bias in the matter under consideration.
“It is for the reasons explained above that I hereby grant the prayer for prohibition in order that justice will be seen to be done in this case. In conclusion, the application succeeds on both counts and is accordingly granted as prayed.”
He was backed by his colleagues Justices A. M. Dordzie and Tanko Amadu. Justices Jones Dotse and Lovelace Johnson disagreed.
The review application is being heard by Justices Gertrude Torkonoo and Prof Ashie Kotey, who have joined the original panel.
The Attorney General told the panel the decision of the highest Court of the land contains fundamental errors of law that manifestly resulted in miscarriage of justice.
But Dr Opuni’s lawyers disagree. They say a review cannot be a means to re-argue matters that have been canvassed and rejected by the court.
JoyNews has sighted an October 25 application filed by Dr Opuni’s lawyers. They are asking that Justice Jones Dotse recuses himself from the panel.
Dr Opuni, in his affidavit in support of this application, says his attention has been drawn to a widely circulated internet publication by Kelvin Taylor, a Ghanaian broadcaster in the United States of America.
Mr Taylor is said to have alleged that the Attorney General, on October 15, went to the office of Justice Jones Dotse, the presiding judge and had an extensive meeting with him. This meeting, Dr Opuni says the broadcast revealed, lasted for over two hours.
Dr Opuni then alleges that the AG Godfred Yeboah Dame, while serving as Deputy Attorney, attended a town hall meeting of supporters and sympathizers of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), which took place on April 6, 2019, in London, England and which meeting he says was streamed on numerous social media outlets including on Facebook and OMEGA LIVE TV, a private television station.
Mr Dame, Dr Opuni says stated the following “Even with regards to that, the prosecution has started, and I can allude to four cases of persons, close associates with John Mahama administration.
The first is the Opuni trial. We all know Dr Opuni was one person who was used by the Mahama Administration to perpetrate wrongdoings. Now there is a prosecution of the former COCOBOD CEO, Dr Opuni, it is ongoing and it involves various huge sums of money as losses to the State.’”
He insists these comments amounted to a political colouration of his case.
“That I am therefore not in any doubt that my case has been unnecessarily elevated to an instance of corruption of the NDC, the success of which would have a bearing on the political fortunes of the present ruling party of which the Attorney General is an appointee,” Dr Opuni stated in the affidavit.
He continued, “That I state that even though I was not at the said meeting as stated by the said Kevin Taylor broadcast, the conduct of the learned Attorney General in giving a political twist to my case at the time he was Deputy Attorney General, together with the statement by other political bigwigs of the ruling party leaves me in no doubt that it is in the interest of the government that I be convicted for purely political reasons as in the words of the Attorney General.
“We all know Dr Opuni was one person who was used by the Mahama Administration to perpetrate wrongdoings. Now there is a prosecution of the former COCOBOD CEO, Dr Opuni, is ongoing, and it involves various huge sums of money as losses to the State.”
He, therefore, argues that this meeting alleged to have taken place days after the court had heard oral arguments, leaves him in serious doubts of the impartiality of Justice Jones Dotse.
“That I state that the said two-hour meeting which, according to the broadcast of the said Kevin Taylor, took place on the said Friday the 15th day of October 2021 after the hearing of the oral arguments on Tuesday, the 12th day of October 2021 in respect of the review application, leaves me in serious doubts of the impartiality of his Lordship Justice Jones Dotse in the review application and convinces me that the Attorney General intends to use all means to ensure that I am convicted.”
He, therefore, wants Justice Dotse to recuse himself.
“That I have been advised by counsel and verily believe same to be true that it is a truism and an established principle of law that justice should not only be done but manifestly and undoubted be seen to be done. Unfortunately, the continuation of Justice Jones Dote will destroy this scared legal cliché. I pray that Justice Jones Dotse is recused as member of the review panel to enable meaning to be given to this legal cliché.”
But Justice Dotse, in a response sighted by JoyNews, insists a case meriting his recusal has not been made. He explains that while serving as Acting Chief Justice during the absence of the Chief Justice, Anin Yeboah, from the country from Monday, 11th October 2021 to Monday, 18th October 2021, he met the Attorney-General. He explains that this meeting was in relation to matters concerning the Ghana School of Law as he had also assumed the position of Acting Chairman of the General Legal Council.
“Indeed, anybody with sound legal knowledge and training will understand that in the course of our work as Judges, it is normal for Judges of my stature and the Attorney General and senior staff of the Office of Attorney General and Ministry of Justice to come into contact on a regular basis.
“Some of the institutions by which these contacts take place include the Judicial Council and its many Committees, the Rules of Court Committee, the General Legal Council, the Legal Service Board, to mention a few.
“Apart from issues touching the Ghana School of Law (GSL.), which I discussed with the Attorney General on the 15th of October 2021 and which did not last more than 20 minutes, I believe that the instant application has been actuated by malice and poor judgment.
“I am in no position to comment on the depositions in paragraphs 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the affidavit in support, and the brazen attempt to connect these events to me are equally in bad taste and completely unwarranted.
“I also deny the depositions and innuendos contained in paragraphs 12 and 13 of the affidavit in support and state that these are not grounds to require a Judge to recuse himself,” Justice Dotse stated.