The National Communication Officer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Sammy Gyamfi, has indicated that democracy allows for every institution in a state to be subject to scrutiny and criticism.
He, therefore, described as “mind-boggling” the Chief Justice’s petition to the General Legal Council against former deputy attorney general Dominic Ayine over his criticism of the conduct of the Bench during the hearing of the 2020 election petition.
“In a democracy, every institution is subject to scrutiny and criticism, and the judiciary is no exception. Any attempt by the Judiciary to suppress dissent and victimise critical voices will be fiercely resisted”.
“The comment in question is an opinion Dr Ayine is entitled to, and does not impugn the sanctity of the judiciary in any way. That, such a harmless comment will warrant Dr Ayine’s referral to the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council by the Chief Justice is mind-boggling,” he posted on Facebook.
Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah hauled Dr Ayine to the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council and petitioned the body to cause a probe to be conducted into some “disparaging comments” made by the main opposition MP.
The CJ’s complaint concerns some comments made by Dr Ayine regarding the posture of the Supreme Court during the hearing of the 2021 election petition which affirmed President Nana Akufo-Addo’s victory.
The Bolgatanga East MP, according to the petition addressed to the Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council, is claimed to have said during a panel discussion on ‘Presidential Election Petitions and their Impact on Africa’s Democracy that: “The Supreme Court’s failure to apply the rules of procedures as well as the consistent and continuous dismissal of the petitioners’ applications or reliefs, were the basis of his assertion”.
The Chief Justice complained of similar ‘scandalous’ statements made by Dr Ayine during the hearing of the election petition for which he apologised “profusely” because they were “unbecoming of a lawyer of his standing” and also as a former deputy attorney general.”
The CJ, therefore, according to the letter, “finds his alleged disparaging comments totally unacceptable and would like you to investigate this matter further”.
Positing his views on the matter, Prof Stephen Kweku Asare, a D&D Fellow in Public Law and Justice at CDD-Ghana, said: “The Danquah Institute organised a workshop on the 2012 election petition where speakers such as Sam Okudzeto, Professor Frimpong etc., discussed and criticised the judgment. I supported the Institute in doing so then and still do”.
“I wrote many commentaries criticising the judgments, including the contempt proceedings even while the trial was still ongoing, incurring the displeasure of Justice Atuguba”, the KPMG Professor in accounting at the Fisher School of Accounting noted.
“Others, many lawyers included, openly and vigorously questioned aspects of the judgments and raised issues about the independence of the judiciary.
“Nobody, to my knowledge, was referred to the GLC for investigation. And that is right. The judiciary is an arm of government and is not immune from scrutiny and accountability.
“What then has changed for those who now raise similar questions, in the spirit of judicial scrutiny and accountability, to be referred to the GLC for investigation and potential disciplinary action?
“And why are such referrals, coming as they are from the highest echelons of the judiciary, not publicised? Is the public not supposed to know?
“We cannot be free to criticise the judiciary and be quiet when others are stopped from doing the same thing that we are allowed to do.
“It does not matter whether we agree or disagree with the criticisms. The important thing is that people are free to criticise and those who disagree with the criticisms are also free to offer their opinions.
“The needless effort to silence some people in this polity must stop immediately to save the judiciary from itself”, he said.
He demanded “the immediate and unconditional cessation of any and all investigations commenced by the GLC following referrals made by the judicial secretary on commentaries made about the 2020 election petition”.