Lawyer prays Supreme Court to make justice affordable

LawMr Mathias Kwasi Yakah, a lawyer and human rights advocate, has filed a suit at the Supreme Court seeking among others a declaration to nullify the new court fees for justice to be affordable.

The Statement of his case made available to Ghana News Agency, stated that” The Civil Proceedings (fees and allowances) (Amendment Rules 2014) Constitutional Instrument (C.I. 86), which has enacted astronomical increments in court fees is unconstitutional as it has closed the doors of justice to the overwhelming majority of the poor.

Underprivileged, average income earners, women, children aged and disabled in the Ghanaian society and it is inimical to the common law principles of the Rule of Law.”

He called for “a further declaration that the application of the C.I.86 fees to criminal proceedings is unconstitutional, illegal without any authority and repugnant to justice, equity, the Rule of Law.”

Mr Yakah is also praying that court to make a declaration on the true interpretation of Article 14 and 19(2) (e) as the limitation of pre trial right access to police statement and other documents in a criminal trial to only trial by indictment is inconsistent with Article 14 and 19(2) (e) of the constitution.

The human rights advocate is seeking the court’s, ”Declaration that the Judicial Council and its Rules Committee’s inaction and or omission to publish a comprehensive schedule of fees in civil and criminal proceedings in both its criminal and civil ramification is unconstitutional”.

He called for” an order for a periodic publication of a detailed comprehensive schedule of fees in both proceedings to the understanding of the public”.

According to him, the civil proceedings fees have increased by 50 per cent to 300 per cent which is harsh and excessive.

“To add insult to injury, some Courts, if not all, demand and or insist on the payment of five per cent from monies paid by the accused to complainants in the course of trial which is patently unconstitutional…and without any reasonable authority.”

He said Courts have refused accused persons or their lawyers to have pre trial discovery rights to police and witness statements in criminal summary trials which is inconsistent with Article 14 and 19(e) of the Constitution, which stipulates that accused persons in all criminal trials must be given adequate time and facilities to prepare for their defense.

On the argument that those who cannot afford the high court fees should go for legal aid, he said it is “dangerous, ill informed and will make justice for sale to the highest bidder”, adding: I have personally done some pro bono cases because there were no aid from anywhere for the persons involved.”

“The Legal Aid System in Ghana is not well organised and a few people even know their scare locations which does that make justice accessible to all as envisaged by the spirit, wording and objectives of the 1992 Constitution.”

According to him, “Even in developed justice delivery systems like United States, United Kingdom and Canada, where the legal aid systems are well developed, accessible and functional, court fees are relatively low and affordable”.

Mr Yakah said he put a hold on his action after verbal assurance from Mr Alex Opoku Acheampong, the Judicial Secretary that he was immediately ordering all registrars and cashiers of the service not to apply and charge the fees of C. I. 86 in criminal matters.

In an interview with the Ghana News Agency on Easter Monday, he said nothing has changed and this time he is going all out for the sake of the underprivileged.

Source: GNA

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