A private legal practitioner has dragged the Attorney General and the Chief Justice (CJ) to the Supreme Court over the increment of Court fees which he describes as “astronomical” in the country.
Mr. Mathias Kwasi Yakah a Tema based lawyer contended that the increment of Court fees (filing fees) in both criminal and civil proceedings were beyond people’s reach and has closed the doors of justice to the poor, women, children, aged, low income and middle income earners in society.
Mr. Yakah is therefore seeking a true interpretation of the spirit and words of constitution specifically the preamble of Article 12, 14, 19 (2) (e), 33, 37, 154 and 157, with regards to the fees and allowances in civil proceedings.
He contends that the CI 86, which enacted the astronomical increment in Court fees was unconstitutional and inconsistent with the Common Law Principle of rule of law.
Mr. Yakah is further seeking a declaration that the Judicial Council and its Rules Committees inaction or omission to publish distinctively and comprehensibly to the understanding of the public, rules regarding payable fees in Court proceeding (Civil and Criminal) cases was unconstitutional.
The Tema based lawyer is therefore praying for an order for the AG and CJ to publish Court fees to the understanding to the public.
He noted that due to the Judicial Service’s failure to publish the fees covering criminal proceedings; the Courts were applying civil proceeding (fees and Allowances) (Amendment Rules 2014) CI 86 indiscriminately.
He is praying the Supreme Court to declare a clear dichotomy between fees for civil and criminal proceedings.
Mr. Yakah is also praying the Court to grant accused persons in summary trials access to police statements and other documents to ensure accused persons rights to fair trial.
The Counsel for the defendants, Ms Ivy Vanderpuiye, contended that the plaintiff did not raise genuine constitutional issues but has tried to clad the issues as constitutional ones.
According to defendants, the plaintiff’s case could never be the enforcement of or interpretation of the constitution adding, “these matters are recognizable by the High Court”.
The defendants noted that CI 86 was not in contravention of Article 14 and 19 of the constitution because fees payable for the institution of actions in Court could not have any connection with the protection of personal liberty.
“At any rate in circumstances where the personal liberty is curtailed Court fees do not become immediately exigible.
“No person is obliged to go to court. A person who has to go to court should follow the laid down procedure”.
According to the defendants “CI 86 cannot be in contravention of Article 154 and 157 because it was enacted pursuant to the powers of the Judicial Council or its Committees and was enacted by a constitutionally mandated body.
At the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Ms Vanderpuiye a Senior State Attorney prayed the Court to grant the defendants extension of time so they could file their statement of case.
The five member panel presided over by Ms Sophia Adinyira granted the defendants 14 days to file their statement of case.