A US-based Ghanaian law professor, H. Kwesi Prempeh has challenged the Judicial Council (JC) to televise the hearing of circuit court judges and magistrates in the bribery scandal to boost public confidence in the judiciary.
He strongly believes the ongoing in-camera hearing will further deepen the public mistrust in the judicial system.
“What is lost by opening up the process compared to what is gained by closing of the process?” Prof. Kwesi Prempeh asked when he joined discussions on Joy FM/MultiTV current affairs programme Newsfile on Saturday. The programme is hosted by legal practitioner Samson Lardy Anyenini.
His call is however not applicable to high court judges named in the scandal. Judges at the Superior Court who misconduct themselves are covered under Article 146 (8) which says, “All proceedings under this article shall be held in camera, and the Justice or Chairman against whom the petition is made is entitled to be heard in his defence by himself or by a lawyer or other expert of his choice.”
A total of 34 high court judges as well as circuit court judges and magistrates have been implicated in a revealing and embarrassing video allegedly taking bribes to influence judgement.
The footage is the result of a two-year investigation by ace investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas.
“These are not ordinary times, these are exceptional times and exceptional circumstance. What has happened is unprecedented public shaming of the judiciary. Not just locally but also internationally,” he observed.
He is therefore pushing for the Judicial Council to be programmatic. Opening the hearing to the public will “offer a golden opportunity to the judicial leadership to do things differently and carry the public along with them as they go ahead”.
The judiciary is a place people go for cure for injustice or criminal offences. But if the “cure is now the disease”, Prof. Prempeh recommended “some radical surgery”, saying “this is not time for business as usual”.
The constitutional law lecturer supports the school of thought that believes televising the video would be a good omen for the judiciary.
“If I were any of the affected judges, and I was called to answer any of these charges, I would want an equal public opportunity to do so, after all the allegations have been made very public,” he opined.
Prof. Prempeh further posited: “Keeping this proceedings in-camera would result in more and more of this speculation, guessing, gossip on one hand, and then denial and reputation on the other hand. I think it should be avoided.”
He also advised the judiciary to seize the opportunity to reform their way of doing things. For instance, habitual adjournment, delay, improper fraternization between judges and lawyers, judicial appointment without public participation among others must be relooked at.
Already some of the affected judges who felt the procedure adopted by the Judicial Council in handling the situation is improper have headed to court to stop the ongoing process.
A five-member committee set up by the Chief Justice, Mrs. Georgina Wood is chaired by Supreme Court Judge Justice Sophia Adinyira.
Other members of the committee are the president’s representative Victor Gbeho, Director of Legal Affairs at the Ghana Armed Forces Col. Gyekye Asante, former President of the Ghana Bar Association, Joe Becham and a representative from the Attorney-General’s Department.