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Does a judge influenced to decide a case in a particular direction fit for their position?

Lawsuit Judge Law Court Decision Sued Gavel 100614064 Large 1024x620 1 610x400 Judges are expected to fair in their dealing

Thu, 10 Jun 2021 Source: Rockson Adofo

Judges are required by the ethics of their profession to be fair and firm when hearing and deciding cases brought to their court. They are there to decide cases based on facts and the credibility of evidence so submitted by both the plaintiff and the defendant.

In civil suits, a judge’s decision is determined by the preponderance of evidence whereas in criminal suits, decisions are absolutely based on the indisputable facts and undoubtedly abundant evidence as are acceptable, permissible, and made available to the court.

The exercise of discretion by a judge in the determination of the outcome of a case should not supersede the laws as may be relevant to the case, as may be stated in the statute books, rules of court and in consonance with precedents.

A judge may have the right to exercise of discretion in the determination of a case, but not in the face of overwhelming credible evidence presented to the contrary. Credible evidence and facts, in my estimation as a layperson in the legal profession, take precedence over a judge’s exercise of discretion to decide a case against the party presenting the said undoubted evidence.

Therefore, to hear of a judge declare a verdict not based on facts and credible evidence but inducement of some sort, puts the integrity of such a judge in doubt.

Many a time, which is obvious and undeniable, we hear of some Ghanaian judges declaring verdicts on cases based on how they have been influenced by external forces or powers.

Some of these influencers are traditional chiefs, politicians, people in high positions, friends and family members of the judge. They use their position, offer of bribe, promises and other forms of inducements to get the judge decide a case in favour of whomever such influencers do support.

A judge may feel his/her position is threatened, if not their life, should they refuse to do as may be requested of them by a powerful traditional overlord, a politician or someone in a higher position in the country. Subsequently, the judge will yield in to the undue pressure being exerted upon them, to do the disgraceful thing.

In my candid opinion, any judge falling for inducement to decide a case brought before them other than the merit of the evidence and facts in relevancy to the case and applicable laws is not worth their salt.

Such are the judges tarnishing the image of the Ghana judiciary. They are those permitting the ordinary, but audacious citizens in the society to treat the entire judiciary with the scorn it deserves.

For example, the law is explicit on what constitutes “a cause or matter affecting chieftaincy" that any of the lower courts up to the Appeal Court has no jurisdiction over, except the Judicial Courts of the Regional and National Houses of Chiefs and the Supreme Court.

In explaining "a cause or matter affecting chieftaincy" the interpretation sections of both Act 459 and Act 759 provide at Sections 117 (1) and 76 respectively, as follows;

"Cause or matter affecting chieftaincy" means a cause, matter, question or dispute relating to any of the following:

1. The nomination, election, selection or installation of a person as a chief or the claim of a person to be nominated, elected, selected or installed as a chief,

2. The deposition or abdication of a chief

3. The right of a person to take part in the nomination, election, selection or installation of a person as a chief or in the deposition of a chief

4. The recovery or delivery of stool property in connection with the nomination, election, selection, installation, deposition or abdication of a chief, and

5. The Constitutional relations under customary law between chiefs"

Again, the law states in black and white, if not in bold print, that the High Court has the right to hear and determine verdicts on criminal cases. Is killing your rival in the course of a chieftaincy dispute a criminal offence able to be trialled in a High Court, or it must only be sent before the Judicial Committees of the Regional and National Houses of Chiefs and the Supreme Court since it occurred during chieftaincy dispute?

Is killing somebody during chieftaincy dispute among the causes and matters as are clearly stated above of which only the Supreme Court and the Judicial Committees are eligible to preside over? Absolutely no! Does killing or murdering someone, if not authorised by law, constitute a crime, regardless of how it comes about but having nothing to do with self-defence? If yes, can it be trialled in a High Court, whether or not it has to do with chieftaincy dispute or issues?

What about committing a fraud like falsification of documents in the course of chieftaincy affairs? Can any of the lower courts up to the Appeal court have the right to hear and determine verdicts on fraud cases come about as a result of chieftaincy affairs? Does fraud come under the cause or matter affecting chieftaincy of which the lower courts up to the Appeal Court have no right to hear and pronounce judgment on?

What are FRAUD and FALSIFICATION? FRAUD in law is defined as “intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain, or to deprive a victim of a legal right” while FALSIFICATION is “ the action of changing something, such as a document, in order to deceive people”

From the Ghana Criminal Code 1960 (Act 29) on Sections 239 to 250 on corruption, bribery, extortion, imposition, etc., one will ascertain for themselves that fraud and falsification are punishable criminal offences. Therefore, if a judge in the face of abundant credible evidence proving the commitment of fraud rather goes ahead to decide in favour of he who commits the fraud, how should he be viewed and treated?

Is it not that “fraud vitiates everything, including all contracts”? Lord Denning's infamous statement in Lazarus Estates Ltd v Beasley goes: “The court is careful not to find fraud unless it is distinctly pleaded and proved; but once it is proved, it vitiates judgments, contracts and all transactions whatsoever…”

Therefore, wherever, whenever and however fraud is committed, the lower courts up to the Appeal court have the right to hear and declare verdict on them. Isn’t it?

Any judge who goes against this to decide differently is a misfit better handed over to the emerging Ghana freedom fighters to drag him/her on the floor to the cleaners.

I hope no judge will give me the cause to take them up in a manner that will send cold chill down their spine. Unless we stand up against lawlessness, abuses of power and official infatuation with corruption in Ghana, we are doomed as a people and a nation.

Rockson Adofo, that fearless and proud son of Kumawu/Asiampa, is doing his bit to right the wrongs ongoing in Ghana. What are you doing to help your nation, oh, ye fellow Ghanaian?

Long live Ghana. Long live the Republic.

Columnist: Rockson Adofo