Chief Justice Georgina Wood
The Ghana Bar Association (GBA) has slammed the government for the ‘inhuman and degrading circumstances in which some justices of the High Court, the Circuit Court and District Court are compelled to work and live.’
A statement released by the GBA on Wednesday described the scene at the bungalows and courtrooms in the regions as a ‘rude awakening,’ as the John Dramani Mahama-led government has failed to release budgetary provisions to the Judiciary for over a year now.
‘The Ghana Bar Association notes with regret that despite the fact that the Constitution guarantees financial autonomy to the Judiciary, the institution virtually has to be on its knees begging government to release its subvention,’ the GBA stated in a release jointly signed by the President, Nene Amegatcher and the Secretary, Justin Amenuvor.
The GBA has therefore warned that the stifling of funds to the Judiciary could lead to a total breakdown of the justice delivery system, as even basic working materials such as stationery, are not available.
‘The crisis has reached a dangerous peak with the suspension of the sittings of the Court of Appeal in some regions, forcing litigants and lawyers to travel all the way to the capital which itself is overburdened with caseloads,’ the GBA observed.
‘Court recording systems have all broken down, forcing judges to revert to longhand as a way of recording thereby frustrating the speedy adjudication of cases. The security of court documents is compromised because of lack of appropriate storage facilities,’ GBA bemoaned.
Reptiles In Houses!
The GBA was alarmed about the extremely deplorable living conditions of judges when it recently undertook a working tour of the regions.
According to the association, when members went round the dwelling places of judges, they had a ‘rude awakening’ as they were confronted by damaged doors, windows, ceiling, tiles, leaking roofs, broken sewage cisterns.
‘The houses were in a general state of disrepair which does not befit the residences of members of the judicial arm of government. In other places, reptiles crept into the bungalows because of the overgrown environment,’ the statement indicated.
Meanwhile, the court rooms in which these judges were supposed to work were also beset with similar ‘inhumane’ conditions with cracked walls, leaking roofs, poor sanitation, lack of running water and broken down air conditioners.
‘The Ghana Bar Association calls on the President of the Republic as a matter of urgency, to ensure that the budgetary allocation due to the judiciary is released forthwith in accordance with the constitutional obligation imposed on him,’ the GBA charged President Mahama.
‘This will enable the sorry living and working environment of judges to be rectified to give them a conducive environment to live and work and administer justice without fear or favour.’
The GBA has also made certain recommendations that the 15% internally generated fund retained by the Judiciary ‘is grossly inadequate for the third arm of state to perform its constitutional mandate’ in all the ten regions of the country.
‘Accordingly, the GBA calls on Parliament, without further delay, to increase the percentage of the internally generated fund from 15% to 75%. These measures advocated must be treated under a certificate of urgency by both the Executive and Parliament to avoid total collapse of the administration of justice with its attendant repercussions on the nation,’ the statement demanded.
By Raphael Ofori-Adeniran
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