Posted: Friday 29th August 2014 at 10:30 am

Presidential Commission Of Inquiry Has No "Power Of Contempt"

I would like to bring to the attention of the three-man Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Brazil 2014 World Cup fiasco that, the Commission does not have the “Power of Contempt”.

The Commission of Inquiry is a “quasi-judicial body” and a “lower adjudicating body” (and not a “court of law”).. Therefore, the mere fact that, the Commission has the powers of a High Court does not mean that, the Commission is a High Court.

Undoubtedly, “Quasi-Judicial Bodies and Lower Adjudicating Authorities” (such as, the National Labour Commsiion, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, etc) have the powers of a High Court; but, legally, they are not superior courts of judicature to be classified as a “High Court”.

For instance, Section 139 (2) of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) confers on the National Labour Commission (NLC) the powers of a High Court. But, since the NLC does not have the inherent jurisdiction to “enforce” its own decisions or the “power of contempt”, the NLC cannot be classified as a “High Court”.

Even though, under Section 134 of the Labour Act, an “appeal” against the decision of the NLC lies at the “Court of Appeal”, the decision of the NLC could be enforced at the “High Court” (not the “Court of Appeal”) – as stipulated under Section 172 of the Labour Act.

It must be emphasized that, all “quasi-judicial bodies and lower adjudicating authorities” (whether chaired by a Supreme Court Judge or a Court of Appeal Judge) is subject to the supervisory powers of the High Court.

By virtue of Article 141 of the 1992 Constitution, all “lower adjudicating authorities” (such as, the National Labour Commission, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and Commissions of Inquiry, etc) are under the supervision of the “High Court” – even though, these lower adjudicating authorities may have the powers of a High Court in the performance of their duties.

Therefore, the mere fact that, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry has the powers of a High Court does not mean that, the Commission is vested with the “power of contempt”.

In fact, if the Commission feels that, the conduct of a person has brought the name and dignity of of the Commission into disrepute (and the person refuses to apologize to the Commission after the person has been given a “fair-hearing” by the Commission), the Commission can only refer or recommend to the High Court to commit that person to contempt.

Indeed, the Commission of Inquiry cannot on its own motion commit any person for contempt. Invariably, the Commission does not have the power to convict any person for contempt, or sentence any person to prison for contempt, or direct the police to arrest any person and put that person into custody for contempt, or impose any fine on any person for contempt.

Evidently, the powers of a Commission of Inquiry are spelt out in Article 279 (1) of the 1992 Constitution – and these powers do not include the ‘power of contempt”.

Undoubtedly, Article 126 (2) of the 1992 Constitution stipulates that, it is only a “Superior Court” which has the “power of contempt”.

Besides, Article 19 (12) of the 1992 Constitution stipulates that, it is only the “Superior Court” that has the power to punish a person for contempt.

Therefore, since the Presidential Commission of Inquiry is not a “Superior Court”, the Commission cannot punish any person for contempt. It can only make a referral or recommendation to the High Court (which has the constitutional power to commit a person for contempt) – and it left to the discretion of the High Court to determine whether to enforce the recommendation by the Commission.

In fact, Justice Senyo Dzamefe (who is an Appeal Court Judge) and Mr. Moses Foh-Amoaning (who is a Senior Lecturer at the Ghana School of Law) should know better; and should not threaten Ghanaians and poor Journalists with “contempt”.

Indeed, Justice Senyo Dzamefe and Mr. Moses Foh-Amoaning should not arrogate to themselves powers which are beyond their jurisdiction; and I call on all well-meaning Ghanaians to treat their threats of putting Journalists into prison with the contempt it deserves.

In fact, Justice Senyo Dzamefe and Mr. Mose Foh-Amoaning should be reminded that, they are not above the law and they cannot abuse their powers and arrogate to themselves powers they do not have.

Indeed, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry is a “quasi-judicial body” and a “lower adjudicating authority” (and not a ‘Superior Court” of Judicature), and therefore, does not have the “Power of Contempt”.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. James K. Ansah
c(Constitutional Lawyer).

Comments

+