General News Thu, 28 Feb 2002

Fast Track Court is illegal -Supreme Court

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court has ruled the Fast Track Court, created by the NPP government, illegal.

The highest Court of the land, was ruling on an application brought before it by Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), challenging the constitutionality of the Fast Track Court (FTC). Five of the nine-member panel, presided over by Mr Justice Edward Kwame Wiredu, ruled in favour of former Chief Executive.

Mrs Justice Bamford Addo, Justices F.Y. Kpegah, E.D.K. Adjabeng, A.K.B. Ampiah and Kwame Adzoe ruled in favour of Mr Tsikata’s motion while the Chief Justice, Justices Sophia Akuffo, George Acquah and William Atuguba ruled against Mr Tsikata’s application. The Court will give its reasons for the ruling on 20th March.

After the ruling, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo who was visibly shocked swiftly headed towards the lawyers robe room. He was in no mood to comment immediately and when The Accra Daily Mail tried to have an off the cuff interview with him he just said, "I don't even understand. I am confused."

Mr. Tsikata came out of court with the airs of someone who had just achieved a major feat.

The throng of people who had besieged the Supreme Court premises seemed equally dumfounded by the ruling and could be seen in groups discussing what was clearly a major legal bombshell.

On February 11 this year, Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata made his maiden appearance before the Fast Track Court on a charge of willfully causing financial loss to the state. He refused to enter a plea and openly declared that he did not recognise the jurisdiction of the court.

In his submission, Mr Emmanuel Victor Oware Dankwa, counsel for Tsatsu, argued that the FTC was unknown in the Constitution. Counsel said in making provision for the administration of justice, the Constitution did not establish any court known as FTC.

Quoting portions of the 1992 Constitution to buttress his point, Mr Dankwa said justice emanated from the people and should be administered in the name of the Republic by the Judiciary, which shall be independent and subject only to the Constitution.

Counsel further argued that under Article 126 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, the Judiciary shall consist of the Superior Courts of Judicature comprising the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Courts/Regional Tribunals.

Apart from these, counsel contended that there should also be such lower courts or tribunals as Parliament may by law establish, and that "nowhere is there provision for a FTC or has Parliament under Article 126 (I) (b) exercised its power to establish any FTC." Based on this argument, Mr Dankwa's said the FTC had no jurisdiction to try his client, and therefore prayed the Supreme Court to consider his application.

The ruling could have serious implications on the case involving a former Youth and Sports Minister, Mallam Yusif Isa and former deputy Finance Minister, Victor Selormey who were both tried at the Fast Track Court and jailed for causing financial loss to the state and also the ongoing Quality Grain trial of some former ministers and government officials.