Circuit and district courts across Ghana will now sit and adjudicate matters on personal liberties on holidays, weekends and even during periods of civil unrest so far as their safety can be guaranteed.
Chief Justice Anin-Yeboah gave the order on Wednesday, May 20, 2020.
The order is the first major decision taken by the Chief Justice since assuming office earlier this year, and formally gives cognizance to the landmark decision of the Supreme Court on December 18, 2019.
That decision by a seven-member panel which included Justice Anin-Yeboah himself, was Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo’s valedictory judgement.
The order puts to rest the age-old practice where suspects are arrested and detained beyond 48 hours because courts did not sit on weekends and holidays for them to be arraigned.
A private legal practitioner, Martin Kpebu, in September 2016 dragged the Attorney General to the Supreme Court to seek a declaration that portions of the Holidays Act that bar the courts from dealing with cases that affect personal liberty are unconstitutional.
The country’s Apex Court in giving the ruling in 2019 ordered the Chief Justice to within six months designate each Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assembly with the required number of courts as may be needed to sit on weekends and holidays to deal with cases affecting personal liberties.
Justice Anin-Yeboah’s order which is in accordance with the ruling stated that;
1. All Circuit and Districts Courts throughout the country are hereby designated to sit on public holidays, weekends and periods of civil unrest (where the safety of Judges/Magistrates, Court staff and court users can be guaranteed) to determine issues pertaining to personal liberty.
2. Consequently, all Circuit Court Judges and Magistrates will sit on days so specified whenever they are informed by their respective Registrars that a case bordering on personal liberty has been filed to determine on any of the specified days.
3. The respective Registrars shall also inform the Court Staff to attend court on such days fixed for the hearing of such personal liberty cases.
4. The Supervising High Court Judges in all Regional capitals shall designate a Justice of the High Court to sit and determine any such case on personal liberty as and when his attention is drawn to the filing of such case by the Registrar of the court.
By Jonathan Ofori, Daily Mail GH