The Supreme Court of Ghana: Upholding justice and constitutional governance

Stories and facts

In terms of its history, during the colonial era, the Supreme Court of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) functioned as the highest tribunal. Appeals from this court were directed to the West African Court of Appeal (WACA), established in 1866. However, after Ghana gained independence, it withdrew from WACA and abolished appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London in 1960.

Following a military coup on February 24, 1966, the Supreme Court was abolished by the National Liberation Council (NLC), which transferred judicial power to the Superior Court of Judicature and the inferior courts through the Courts Decree, 1966 (NLCD.84). This decision was later reversed by Article 102(4) of the 1969 constitution, which marked the establishment of the second republic.

Subsequently, after another coup on January 13, 1972, the National Redemption Council abolished the Supreme Court, citing the suspension of the 1969 constitution and the lack of necessity for a court to interpret and enforce it. The court's functions were then transferred to the Court of Appeal. However, with the establishment of the third republic on September 24, 1979, under the 1979 constitution, the Supreme Court was reinstated.

Despite changes introduced by the Provisional National Defence Council after the coup on December 31, 1981, the Supreme Court remained intact, albeit with modifications to the court system, including the introduction of public tribunals.

An incident worth noting occurred on July 2, 2013, when the Supreme Court sentenced Ken Kuranchie, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Searchlight newspaper, to 10 days in prison for making derogatory remarks about the 9 Justices, referring to them as hypocritical and selective.

The Supreme Court of Ghana, as mandated by the 1992 constitution, consists of the Chief Justice of Ghana and a minimum of nine other Justices of the Supreme Court. The appointment of the Chief Justice is carried out by the President of Ghana in consultation with the Council of State and with the approval of the Parliament. The remaining Supreme Court Justices are appointed by the President based on the advice of the Judicial Council and in consultation with the Council of State, also requiring the approval of Parliament.

The 1992 Constitution abolished the public tribunals established under the PNDC (Provisional National Defence Council) and introduced the Regional Tribunal, whose chairman was considered equivalent to the High Court judges. The Supreme Court does not have a fixed limit on the number of judges. While some have called for a cap on the number, various judges have opposed the idea due to the demands placed on the court by the 1992 constitution.

Following the retirement of Kwasi Anin-Yeboah on May 24, 2023, Jones Dotse assumed the role of acting Chief Justice.

In July 2018, President Nana Akufo-Addo appointed four new judges to the Supreme Court, namely Samuel K. Marful-Sau, Agnes M.A Dordzie, Nii Ashie Kotey, and Nene A. O. Amegatcher. Among the long-serving judges on the Court, William Atuguba retired in the same month. He had been nominated by Jerry Rawlings in November 1995 and served until July 2018. The previous female Chief Justice was Sophia Akuffo, who retired on December 20, 2019, and was succeeded by Kwasi Anin-Yeboah on January 7, 2020. In December 2019, President Akufo-Addo appointed three new judges to the Supreme Court, namely Mariama Owusu, Avril Lovelace-Johnson, and Gertrude Tokornoo, to replace retired or retiring judges Vida Akoto-Bamfo, Sophia Adinyira, and Sophia Akuffo respectively.

The Supreme Court of Ghana stands as the guardian of the Constitution, ensuring the rule of law, protecting citizens' rights, and upholding democratic principles. Through its diligent and impartial adjudication, the court plays a crucial role in maintaining justice, preserving the integrity of Ghana's legal system, and guiding the nation towards a prosperous and equitable future.



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