Ghana’s Legal System: The Judiciary

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Dear Financial Trends Readers,

After some interesting writing about investing and savings, I thought it would be only pragmatic that you also be informed about the safety and security of your business concerns and investments. So for this article, I have reached out to Ekua Eguakun, a young vibrant legal practitioner and a dear friend of mine to assist me in bringing to you the first part of the laws governing our legal system. I hope you will ENJOY this read as much as I did.

 

GHANA’ S LEGAL SYSTEM – THE JUDICIARY

The question that any potential investor wants answered is on their personal safety and the security of their business concerns/investments, which are both ensured by a robust legal regime.

Ghana is a hub of business activity and an attractive destination within the sub-region for investment, not only because of its promising economic indicators but equally due toits sound political/legal climate.

The country can boast vibrant democratic principles with a constitution which guarantees and protects fundamental human rights and freedoms of all persons within its jurisdiction. These rights are however subject to the respect for both the rights and freedom of others and the public interest.

These rights and freedoms are enshrined in the 1992 Constitution and upheld by the three arms of government: the Executive headed by the President, the Legislature headed by the Speaker of Parliament and the Judiciary headed by the Chief Justice.

The Judiciary

The Judiciary is the branch of government which interprets, applies and enforces the laws of Ghana. It functions through the court system in both civil and criminal matters, including matters relating to the Constitution.

Ghana’s judiciary, pursuant to the 1992 Constitution, is very independent and not subject to the control or direction of any person or authority other than the Constitution. This can be attested through several bold decisions taken by the Superior Courts.
Divisions of the Court System: Superior and Lower courts

The Superior Court is made up of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and the Regional Tribunals, whilst the lower courts are made up of the circuit and district courts.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice and not less than nine other justices of the Supreme Court. It is the highest and final appellate court in Ghana. Appeals lie from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court as of right in any civil or criminal case.
It has original and exclusive jurisdiction in all matters relating to the enforcement or interpretation of the 1992 Constitution and matters arising as to whether an enactment was made in excess of the powers conferred on Parliament any authority or any person by law or under the Constitution. The Supreme Court sits to do business with not less than five justices.

The Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal consists of the Chief Justice and not less than ten justices of the Court of Appeal. It has no original jurisdiction but only sits to determine appeals from a judgment, or order of the High Court and the Regional Tribunals.

The High Court

The High Court consists of the Chief Justice and twenty justices of the High Court. It has jurisdiction in all civil and criminal matters, it also hears appeals from the lower courts and other lower adjudicatory bodies such as the House of Chiefs and Traditional Councils. It is constituted by a single judge sitting alone or with either jury or assessors depending on the subject matter. The High Court in Ghana has the following specialized divisions: Commercial, Land, General Jurisdiction, Divorce and Matrimonial, Probate and Letters of Administration, Industrial/Labour, Criminal, and Financial and Human Rights.

Regional Tribunals
A Regional Tribunal consists of the Chief Justice, a Chairman and not less than two or more than four panel members. It has jurisdiction in only criminal matters, particularly offences under Chapter 4 of the Criminal Act 1960 (Act 29), offences under the customs and income tax laws, narcotics and serious economic fraud, loss of Sate funds or property. The Regional Tribunal does not try criminal offences which require jury or assessors.

Lower Courts
The Lower courts comprise the Circuit, District, Juvenile Courts and the National and Regional House of Chiefs as well as the Traditional Councils.

Public Proceedings
In the interest of public morality, public safety or public order, proceedings of the court are generally held in public except where publicity would prejudice the interest of justice, public defence, safety or morality or the welfare of persons under the age of majority.

Other Law Enforcement Agencies
There are other quasi-judicial bodies and law enforcement agencies in Ghana to help prevent or reduce crime, ensure safety and protect the rights and freedoms of all persons .Some of these are: the Police Service, the Prison Service, the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, the National Labour Commission, the Economic and Organised Crime Office, the

Narcotics Control Board and many more.
Ghana’s strong judicial independence contributes to its attractiveness as a business and investment enclave. Perhaps the only drawback is the slowness with which the wheels of justice grind which is attributable to the influx of cases. This not too impressive situation is being remedied through various measures, one of them being the recent adoption of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

BY EKUA EGUAKUN

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