General News of Tuesday, 23 August 2016
A former Attorney General has indicated that the remission of sentence to three persons jailed for contempt suggests that the judges of the Supreme Court who sentenced the contemnors were not reasonable.
Ayikoi Otoo said President John Dramani Mahama has “slapped the judges in the face [by saying] that they are not reasonable people and when they are giving sentences they should think.”
Alistair Nelson, Godwin Ako Gunn and Salifu Maase threatened to kill Supreme Court Judges and rape the Chief Justice if the judgement of a case about the voter’s register did not favour the Electoral Commission.
They were found guilty of scandalising the court and fined 10,000 cedis and handed four months jail term each by the Supreme Court on July 27.
The punishment which some Ghanaians hailed the court for was also condemned by some section of the public who were predominantly members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
A ‘Free Montie Three’ petition was launched and signed by some Ministers of State and stalwarts of the governing NDC to compel the President to exercise his discretionary powers under Article 72 of the constitution in releasing the three.
The President broke his silence on the matter by reducing the four-month prison sentence to one on Monday, August 22.
According to Communications Minister Dr. Omane Boamah, the “compassionate” decision was taken on the advice of the Council of State.
The three who are supporters of President John Mahama are set to be released on Friday, August 26.
The gesture has been met with mixed reactions as some members of the NDC have hailed the President for the remission but some renowned lawyers see the act as a complete disrespect to the judiciary.
Speaking on News Desk on Joy News on Tuesday, the former Attorney General under the Kufour administration said the President did not breach the constitution but he should have considered the circumstances surrounding this particular case.
Mr Ayikoi Otoo believes the President would have served a national interest if he had not exercised the discretionary powers in this case.
“He did no wrong in exercising his powers under Article 72 but he should have thought of how the judges would feel and how Ghanaians would feel…To me, he has behaved as president for his party and not the president of Ghana,” Mr Ayikoi Otoo noted.
He believes the sentencing of the three by the court was to send a clear signal to the general public that the court can be criticised but not by threatening them or using ”certain unacceptable language.”
“What the President has done suggests that the judges did not know what they were about when they issued the prison sentence…he is saying that they do not know the difference between one month and four months.”
The decision, according to him is a bad precedent that has undermined the powers of the highest court of Ghana and this will go a long way to affect the relationship between the judiciary and the executive arms of government.
Meanwhile, Communications Minister, Dr. Edward Omane Boamah, says President John Mahama still has reverence for all state institutions including the judiciary.