Editorial: Justice delayed is indeed justice denied

In October 2020, nine Civil Society Organisations sued the government for what they considered unconstitutional directive by the President to the then-Auditor-General Daniel Yaw Domelevo to proceed on his accumulated leave.

The suit followed persistent exchange of letters between the Presidency and the Auditor-General, who sought to draw the attention of the appointing authority to the fact that the procedure taken was unconstitutional and to the disadvantage of the office of the Auditor-General.

The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the appointment of Mr. Johnson Akuamoah Asiedu as acting Auditor-General.

The CSOs urged the Supreme Court to declare the two acts unconstitutional and also put a perpetual injunction in place to restrain the President from directing Mr. Domelevo to proceed on leave, and also to appoint an acting Auditor-General.

The key issues for our Editorial are the date the writ was filed, the reliefs sought and when it was finally decided upon—from 2020 to 2023.

The Supreme Court last week, with a seven-member panel unanimously held that President Akufo-Addo breached the 1992 Constitution when he directed former Auditor-General Daniel Yaw Domelevo to proceed on leave in 2020, exactly the position of the plaintiff.

According to a Graphiconline report, the apex court also declared that it was unconstitutional for the President to appoint an acting Auditor-General.

However, the Court did not issue any consequential orders or put an injunction on the directive of the President, as sought by the plaintiffs. It was the considered view of the court that, at the time of the ruling, Mr. Domelevo had retired and, therefore, such reliefs by the plaintiffs were moot. That is the crux of this Editorial.

Relatedly, the Supreme Court in the same week struck out the Legislation of the Imposition of the Restriction Act, the law that allowed President Akufo-Addo to impose restrictions as part of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, citinewsroom reported.

Law Professor and Human Rights advocate Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua, along with eight others, dragged the government to the Supreme Court, claiming that directives pursuant to the Act, such as the closure of schools and restriction of movements were unconstitutional.

They claimed that it unlawfully empowered the President to unilaterally suspend fundamental human rights and freedoms in the whole or part of Ghana. The apex court, in delivering its ruling, described the action as null and void.

Meanwhile, the ruling of the court came after the restrictions had been lifted by the President over a year ago, and in his final COVID-19 address before the ruling, he affirmed that the nation should move to the status quo before COVID-19 struck, as the disease was no longer a pandemic.

We observed that these two separate suits sought reliefs within a time frame and their outcomes, if they had come earlier, may have placed the judicial system of the country and our democracy on a higher pedestal. However, we believe it is better late than never.

For instance, the Auditor-General’s bold faceoff with the President that his directive was unconstitutional, with the CSOs going to court because they held the same view as Mr. Domelevo, and convinced that the subsequent appointment of a replacement was also illegal.

The controversy that characterised this case cannot be overemphasised, not to mention the negative media publicity against the government.

It is our wish that the judiciary takes a cue from these cases and sees how best such suits could be expedited in the interest of justice, fairness and the democracy we have sworn to practice.

We also acknowledge the unforeseen delays, sometimes intentional or not, in the adjudication of cases in the courts.

The Chief Justice nominee, Gertrude Araba Esaaba Torkornoo, during her recent vetting mentioned that the delay by prosecutions in regularly following up on their cases is one of the challenges the judiciary faces.

It is our hope that she initiates measures to address the problem, such that controversial cases, especially politically sensitive ones, do not drag in the court for long, by which time some reliefs sought may be moot, as witnessed in the cases referenced in this Editorial.

It is in the interest of the judicial arm of government to ensure that citizens have confidence in their dealings and judgments have to be delivered within a reasonable time.


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