Judiciary ready to protect electoral rights – Chief Justice

Georgina Wood - Chief Justice
Georgina Wood – Chief Justice

The Chief Justice Mrs Georgina T. Wood said the Judiciary has men and women committed to safeguarding and protecting electoral rights based on the fundamental rights of all individuals.

She has therefore called for stakeholder collaboration and cooperation to ensure that electoral disputes were dealt with smoothly, timely and successively.

Mrs Justice Wood was speaking at the opening of the ninth edition of the Annual Chief Justice’s Forum in Accra on the theme: “The Judiciary and Election 2016.”

The forum, which brought together State institutions, such as the Electoral Commission, Judges, Lawyers, Ghana Police Service, Ghana Prison Service, and Representatives of civil society organisations, would educate stakeholders on laws and legal provision governing elections.

It would also sensitise the gathering on the review of Elections Adjudication Manual as well as gather expectations of stakeholders from the Judiciary in the event of electoral disputes and other related matters.

This year’s forum attracted some Members of the African Union Observation Team who are currently in Ghana.

The Chief Justice described this year’s election as more daunting, as it was the first after the 2012 eight month gruelling election petition hearing, which left Ghanaians on tenterhooks.

She said regardless of best efforts aimed at perfecting the electoral process, the fact remained that disputes may remain an “inevitable feature of the process.”

“Elections, in our part of the world, unfortunately have not been limited to a contest of strategic ideas at which political leaders are elected. It is often not without vigorous disagreements that, unfortunately, have often led to loss of limbs or in extreme cases loss of life and destruction of property.”

The Chief Justice however noted that election violence was not justified adding, “It does not in by any stretch of imagination qualify as a viable option.”

“However, faith in the judiciary, to do substantial justice and in a timely fashion is essential to assure all stakeholders that their first recourse should never be a wrong, criminal and heartlessly inhuman approach to the resolution of electoral difference and disputes.”

She commended the trial Judge, registrar and staff of the court who contributed to the adjudicating of the New Patriotic Party Kwesimintsim Constituency primary disputes.

“This is what Ghanaians expect and truly deserve a smooth, timely and successful resolution of electoral disputes, that marks the acceptance of results and a full expression of the sovereign will of the people.”

Mrs Wood therefore entreated all without sacrificing the integrity and legitimacy of the judicial process to be innovative and break new grounds by resorting to the courts election manual.

According to her the highest standard of judicial leadership demonstrated through focus hearing on germane or real issues in controversy, impartiality, fairness, equal opportunity coupled with judges’ judicial independence would lead to transparent and just results.

“This is the kind of judicial approach and attitude that would stem the bruise to our reputation and enhance public trust and confidence in the judiciary.”

She tasked participants to explore and make recommendations during discussions in order to improve administration of justice.

Mr Justice Sule Gbadegbe, a Supreme Court judged who chaired noted that the constitution had conferred enormous powers to the Judiciary to administer justice in the name of the republic notably among them was the power to resolve electoral disputes.

He noted that free and fair conduct of elections was the only way there could be a change in government, adding it was therefore important that rules governing elections were adhered to at every stage of the electoral process.

Source: GNA

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