HONOUR FOR JUSTICE GYAN: THANK YOU LAWYERS
By I. K. Gyasi
SOMETHING PLEASANTLY surprising, unprecedented, gargantuan but highly commendable happened when the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) held its 2012/2013 Annual Conference at Takoradi in the Western region about two weeks ago.
As far as anyone can tell, for the first time in the long history of the Ghana Bar Association, the lawyers decided to honour, not one of their own, but a High Court Judge, Mr. Justice Saeed Kwaku Gyan.
The inscription on the plaque given to him read, “For his uprightness and will to resist corruption in the discharge of his duties as a Justice of the High Court”.
The Citation read as follows: “The National Executive Committee of the GBA toured the regions and visited Sekondi-Takoradi in its Western regional tour. Nowhere in the regions visited was a judge so singled out for praise by the Bar and the Bench.
“Your first station as a Judge was Sekondi-Takoradi where you remained for four years. We visited the Region in your absence, but the lawyers could not stop mentioning you for instilling in them discipline and diligence to work.
“They confirmed you upheld your oath of office and dispensed Justice without fear or favour. You worked very hard without thinking of being in competition with anybody. No wonder you gained the admiration of your peers who wondered whether they could leave office with the same commendation and accolade.
“Human as you are, you were bound to have made some mistakes but none bordered on corruption whatsoever. The testimony was that, not even a ‘thank you’ gift after a decision would be entertained by you. Indeed, in you, we have an anti-corruption personality.
“It is for this reason, therefore, that the Bar is bestowing on you this singular honour for being who you are, an honest, hardworking and incorruptible judge.” (End of Citation).
It is on record that, following his transfer to Accra, Mr. Justice Gyan had a wonderful send-off organized by both the Bench and the Bar of the Western region.
If there is any group of people who have a legal as well as a moral duty to take a close and critical look at judges, it is lawyers.
I understand that, in certain legal dispensations, a person starts as a lawyer and ends up as a lawyer, while a person trains to be a judge and ends up as a judge.
In Ghana, following the British tradition, there is no such unbridgeable gap between lawyers and judges. In other words, in this country, it is lawyers who eventually become judges.
For example, under the 1992 Constitution, “A person shall not be qualified for appointment as a Justice of the High Court unless he is a person of high moral character and proven integrity and is of, at least, ten years standing as a lawyer.” (Article 139 (4). (Emphasis mine).
It comes as no surprise at all that, for nearly thirty years, it has been the Ghana Bar Association that has uninterruptedly marked the gruesome murder of the three High Court Judges, one of them a nursing mother, during the bloodthirsty regime of the provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), led by ex-Flt. Lt. J. J. Rawlings. Those cruelly murdered judges were once members of the GBA.
In the same way, in honouring Mr. Justice Gyan, the lawyers were, in effect, honouring their own, that is someone who was once a member of the Bar.
It is worth noting that the Ghana Bar Association did not instruct its National Executive Committee to pick up a magnifying glass and go looking for faults among the judges so that the Association would embark on a campaign to name and shame judges.
On the contrary, the task of the National Executive Committee was to look for one judge who would come close to fulfilling the requirements of Article 139 (4) of the 1992 Constitution, and the NEC found Mr. Justice Gyan.
Make no mistake, out there on the Bench, there certainly must be other judges who could have been chosen. But, like a beauty contest, where there must be only one first-place winner, only one judge emerged.
This is a start. The expectation is that the GBA might, in future, honour more than one judge. What is important is that the NEC of the GBA actually toured the regions in order to make as fair a choice as possible.
As stated above, the GBA did not decide to look for faults so that the Association could condemn and disgrace judges. After all, it is said that the GBA has a Complaints Committee to which lawyers could take their complaints about judges.
It is most unfortunate that some lawyers, who could become judges tomorrow if they so wished, rather chose to malign judges without offering tangible proof. I cannot help but recall the egregious self-indictment indulged in by Mr. Chris Ackumey, a lawyer.
To prove that members of the Judiciary are corrupt, he boldly told the story of how he borrowed money from his wife so that some people could bribe a judge.
The only proof Mr. Ackumey offered was that the people had gone to a registrar. He could not categorically state that he had seen the money being taken by the judge.
At the time Mr. Ackumey made this seriously defamatory statement, the judge in question was already dead. This means that there was no way the poor judge could be heard in his own defence. Yet this pathetic lawyer could actually assert that investigations could still be carried out into his allegation. Imagine that.
Long after his self-incriminating statement on JOY FM that he had willingly facilitated the commission of the crime of bribery and corruption, this lawyer is still walking free. But let that pass.
I have a personal interest in the GBA’s honour to Mr. Justice Gyan. He attended T. I. Ahmadiyyah High School, Kumasi, popularly known a “Real Amass”.
I am a very senior, pioneer old boy (1950-1955) and I taught Mr. Justice Gyan English Literature up to the Sixth Form level at the same school.
He felt it necessary to let me know about the honour done him by the GBA as one of the people who had helped to mould him and made him what he has become today.
I have had occasion to write about him and another old student, Madam Justice Mariama Owusu of the Court of Appeal still, I felt that I should talk about his recognition by the GBA.
Is there a teacher who is never proud about the achievements of his former pupil or student? I believe strongly that such a teacher is yet to be born. The greatest pride of any teacher is his being able to say that he also helped to make someone what he has become.
Mr. Justice Kweku Gyan is today a Justice of the High Court. May he become a Justice of the Court of Appeal tomorrow and a Chief Justice in the near future. Amen.
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