When the Law starts to work, the lawless will complain
The concepts of law and justice are often confused and misinterpreted by many. While the two are strictly connected, they are not the same thing. Justice is a broad concept that is based on equality of rights, fairness and morality. Conversely, the law is a body of regulations and standards set up by governments and international bodies and is, or should be, based on the idea of justice. Laws are written norms that regulate the actions of the citizens and of the government itself in all aspects, whereas justice is a principle that may, or may not, be universally recognised.
Differences between the two include the fact that laws can vary from country to country and the process with which they are created can change as well. Justice is more or less consistent across all countries: moral values and ethics tend to supersede borders and geographic divisions.Similarities include the fact that both concepts regulate behaviour and aim at creating a more just and equal environment. (Ref: DB Difference Between.net)
Justice, according to Saint Thomas, is the second cardinal virtue, because it is concerned with the will. Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbour. Justice towards God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good.
Justice is connected to the idea of rights. Justice in its proper sense is positive. Injustice occurs when we, as individuals or by law, deprive someone of that which he/she is owed. Legal rights can never outweigh natural ones.
Today, and during this Supreme Court hearings of the 2020 Election Petition, we hear people calling out for justice when proceedings seem to be going against them, even though the justices of the Supreme Court seem to be ordering proceedings as indicated by the Law.
Whenever some unfavourable rulings came from the justices we hear some people saying it is against democracy. What exactly they mean by that is very confusing. To establish our democracy certain laws are put in place and some amendments continue to take place to hold firm the rule of law in this country.
It is very interesting to note that when laws begin to work, the lawless complain of infringements on their right. For the robber does not like that portion of the law which will punish him whenever he is caught or found to have robbed someone. And the rapist does not understand why he should be punished for simply visiting his libido on an unwilling lady, after all that desire was in his make-up and must be made use of, as and when.
We as a nation agreed to rely on a few people to make our laws and we accepted them. We also agreed to have a few people to interpret the laws to us and make sure they work. We placed that responsibility in the hands of judges as in our culture it is only the elders who constitute the court and they decide on behalf of society on matters brought before them.
The question is why should we criticise judges when they insist on towing the path of the written law? Why should we insist that the judges should overlook the law because if they do not, people will say they are in the pockets of the ruling party and that is not good for democracy? Are ruling governments also not to be treated fairly under the law?
The other day a former minister of Justice and attorney general, Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, in what may be seen as an attempt to incite passion among the NDC followers in particular and Ghanaians in general, stated that the lead counsel for the petitioner in the 2020 Election Petition, Tsatsu Tsikata, brought out very sound arguments while the respondents’ counsels presented wishy-washy arguments. In the end she conceded that the justices of the Supreme Court on the panel agreed with the respondents. When asked by a journalists whether what she said also meant that the Supreme Court came out with a wishy-washy ruling, she escaped contempt by saying the Supreme Court must be respected. However, what impact did her earlier statement have on NDC followers?
Some people are crying out that justice is not been served by the justices on the panel. What they have lost sight of is what the law explicitly say on the matter. If the law is being implemented then we can fairly say the justice is done. For if we collectively agree that such laws should be in our statutes, we must accept that justice is served whenever the law is followed to the letter.
Of course, not all laws are appealing and some may seem to do more injustice than good. In whatever way we look at things, once these laws are in our statutes and until we remove them by amendment, we must respect them.We need not condemn judges who implement such laws. And in my opinion, those law experts who are talking against the justices of the Supreme Court for upholding such laws should be rather truthful and explain the laws to us. It is a shame the way they are conducting themselves in this light.
Once upon a time in Ghana, a judge gave a ruling on the case of cigarette. I think it had to do with someone illegally selling the ‘555’against the PNDC obnoxious decrees. The legal arguments talked about ‘55’ as that brand was popularly known. The judge freed the defendant because to him there was no cigarette called ‘55’. Legally, he is right because the case presented by the plaintiff spoke of an ‘unknown brand.’ This is law and justice was served.
So to those who believe justice is not served at the Supreme Court because the rulings were against their interest, they must know that in this case it is the same law we all agreed on, that should implement justice.
The NDC has served notice that it will use other means possible to make the Electoral Commissioner, Jean Mensah, answer to her conduct. If it could not use the law, is the opposition party saying, it will go lawless? For if the laws are working, only the lawless will complain of infringement on their rights.
Hon. Daniel Dugan
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect The Chronicle’s stance.