So it came to pass that our Lord Chief Justice lodged a complaint before the General Legal Council (GLC) against Dr. Dominic Ayine, a former Deputy Attorney General. His issue with Dr. Ayine is that he made unfavorable comments, his personal view, on the Supreme Court’s judgement on the 2020 Election Petition filed by John Dramani Mahama.
Just days after this incident, the CJ was again in the news for not so good reasons. I was saddened when Joy FM flagged him together with President Akufo-Addo and Dr. Bawumia as “Executive lawbreakers” for leading a multitude of mourners (instead of the legal 25 allowed) in flagrant disregard for Covid-19 protocols of social distancing and mask wearing during the funeral of the former NPP General Secretary, the late Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, alias Sir John. While this may be construed as a digression, I think it goes to prove that our CJ is human who is prone to occasional mistakes like all of us.
It is quite commonplace for key players to such suits, as Dr. Ayine was in the case of the 2020 election petition, to make comments that are critical of the judgement, indeed, one that he found disagreeable. It is for this reason that when then Candidate Akufo-Addo found the 2012 election petition ruling disagreeable and he in a much stronger voice than Ayine impugned as unscholarly and partisan the basis for the ruling by the Justices on the panel, he was not hauled before any disciplinary outfit to answer as a lawyer. Democracy gives room for criticism, so it was accepted in good faith.
Unfortunately, we are all well aware that in the course of the 2020 Election Petition Dr. Ayine was charged by the Supreme Court for contempt and hauled before the Court. In the full glare of the public, the former Deputy AG purged himself of the charge and same was expunged from the records.
I recall that some schools of thought, including H. Kwesi Prempeh and Kweku Azar (Professor Stephen Asare), cautioned that the Supreme Court and the CJ must tread cautiously so that the SC does not become unnecessarily sensitive and averse to some modicum of criticism.
It is rather unfortunate that the words of caution may have failed and today our CJ, as Chair of the GLC, has filed a complaint against the views of a distinguished member of the Bar – one whose views, good or bad, should otherwise be tolerated and accepted as constructive criticism.
Should this matter of the CJs complaint travel the full length, will our Lord CJ now be subjected to cross-examination by Counsel for Dr. Ayine, and if so would that not lead to opprobrium?
Will that not open the floodgates for many other members of the Bar, and how would this reflect on the office of the CJ in future?
Does this not shed negative light on the CJ and by extension the Judiciary, which research has suggested to be in many cases unfair and a touch too partisan – if we are to believe the words of then lawyer Candidate Akufo-Addo.
Will this not give further credence to the notion of intolerance towards some members of the society, especially members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
How will this in the long term reflect on our democracy?
By: Joyce Bawa Mogtari, lawyer and Special Aide to former President John Dramani Mahama