Supreme Court justices can’t sit on own case – Opoku Agyeman

A senior law lecturer at the Ghana School of law, Maxwell Opoku Agyeman has asked the Attorney General to take over the case in which two radio panellists, Alistair Nelson and Godwin Ako Gunn, have been cited for contempt by the Supreme Court for threatening to eliminate those on the bench who were adjudication a case between the PNC’s Abu Ramadan and the Electoral Commission over the credibility of the register of voters.

Mr Gunn and Mr Nelson, during a radio talk show on Accra-based private station Montie FM, threatened to kill the judges in similar fashion as their forebears were, in 1982, during the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) regime, if they plunged the country into mayhem by dint of their ruling on a case that pended before them about the credibility of the register of voters.

The two panelists, the owner of the station and host of the show on which the threats were issued, have been summoned to appear before the apex court to answer why they should not be punished for contempt. The latter two are appearing on Tuesday, July 12.

But even before they make that appearance, the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) has come out to describe their threats as empty. “In arresting the two, the BNI took into consideration, the current volatile security situation in the country as we inch towards the 2016 elections.

At the interrogation, the two suspects admitted making those statements and acknowledged that their remarks were regrettable and unfortunate. Further checks by the BNI have, however, established that the suspects were incapable of carrying out pronouncements but did so in a show of needless bravado.”

Speaking on Class 91.3FM’s current affairs programme Inside Politics on Thursday July 7, Mr Opoku Agyeman said it would be better if the Attorney General handled the issue of contempt instead of the justices of the Supreme Court whom the threats were made against.

“I hold the view that a person should try as much as possible not to be a judge in his or her own case in the sense that the rules of natural justice must always be applied, which, therefore, seems to me that when it comes to contempt proceedings, we would have preferred that most often the Attorney General’s Department will charge these people, send them to court before the judges and, therefore, they will try them from outside rather than summoning them and then trying them for making statements about them and sitting on their own cases”, he stated.

“But the unfortunate thing is, I have read a statement by the BNI and that gives me a cause to worry because those that are advocating… who are to exercise their professional judgment, is trying to protect them.

if what I have read from the BNI is true, then it defeats what I am suggesting because then the judges will have no other way because the BNI or the CID or the Attorney General may not be willing or prepared to send this matter to court and if that is so, then the judges have no option but to exercise the powers of contempt, which they have and can exercise, but in doing so, they [should] try as much as possible to balance so that we don’t use one to stifle freedom of expression”, Mr Opoku-Agyeman added.

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