A Law Professor and a Democracy & Development (D&D) Fellow in Public Law and Justice at CDD?Ghana, Prof. Kwaku Asare, has appealed to the judiciary to fast track the hearing of politically-sensitive issues.
According to him, the Supreme Court especially must commit to resolving all constitutional disputes within 180 days, with time-sensitive claims to be put on an even faster track.
He added that this court must be done with the judiciary neutrality in order to boost public confidence in the court system.
The Law Professor was of the view that political actors are likely to turn to the judiciary to settle their differences, only when they have confidence in the courts.
Dr Asare, in an article posted on the website of CDD-Ghana (Centre for Democratic Development) indicated that democracy and constitutionalism break down without a fair and impartial judiciary, adding, “This is why the Constitution guarantees the independence of the Judiciary and provides tenure for judges.”
He furthered: “In turn, the level of confidence rests on the perception of judicial impartiality and fairness. A fair and impartial judiciary is one that follows the law and is not biased or partisan. Thus, lack of fidelity to the law, particularly the paramount law, is the easiest way for judges to create the perception that they are partial and unfair.”
Dr Asare added that in order for the judiciary to fast track cases and win public trust, it must embrace technology to communicate directly with the people, including electronic filing, electronic conferencing, and electronic delivery of opinions.
According to him, the Constitution contains both broadly framed and bright-line provisions, explaining that the bright-line provisions are those that are framed in such clear terms as to warrant no interpretation or construction..
With this, he noted the court must give effect to these bright-line rules without attempting to subject them to broad or purposive interpretation or construction.
“Even when interpreting or construing the broadly framed provisions of the Constitution, the court must demonstrate that it is not ignoring the text, the purpose of the text as evidenced by the work of the committee of experts, and the deliberations of the consultative assembly, the structure of the Constitution, the values embodied in the preamble, and the precedents established by the court,” he stressed.
He posited that it was time for the court to develop some broad guidelines or principles that would be used to determine the constitutionality of laws or administrative actions, and “this will be helpful to all of us in ordering our lives.”
Similarly, the court must weigh its words and opinions very carefully, because people will scrutinise them, especially in this social media era.
To him, it does the court no good, and it harms public confidence when the court says things that are hard to believe, are facially absurd, logically flawed, or inconsistent with its prior precedents.
His reasons are that judges sit in judgment on behalf of the people, therefore, much is expected of them, saying, “for instance, even in their personal lives, judges must avoid words, actions or situations that might make them appear biased or partisan. They must treat all who appear before them with respect and refrain from comments that suggest they have taken sides.”
He advised that judges must avoid excessive entanglements with the political branches and avoid accepting administrative or other positions that are incompatible with their role as judges.
In this regard, they must even be careful about who they socialise with outside the courtroom. Associating with lawyers or other persons connected with cases that they hear can put them in an uncompromising position.
He prayed that a lot is invested into making the court a place where the people feel confident of going when they need justice.
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