By Iddi Yire
Accra, May 26, GNA – The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Parliamentary Minority has expressed its reservations over the approval of Justice Gertrude Araba Esaaba Sackey Torkornoo, the Chief Justice nominee.
Dr Cassiel Ato Baah Forson, the Minority Leader and Ranking Member of the Appointment Committee of Parliament, in his opening remarks during the vetting of the nominee, said his side of the House would like to read the reasons by the Court for its ruling in the case of Mr James Gyakye Quayson.
By the ruling Parliament is to expunge all records on Mr Gyakye Quayson as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin North.
“We are of the view that we should be given the opportunity to get a copy of the ruling so that we can be able to ask the nominee questions based on her ruling,” Dr Forson said.
“We are going to start the vetting using the information that we have but unfortunately we cannot conclude on the matter until we have the ruling on the latest judgement that she (Chief Justice nominee) took part.”
He said they had started the process and that they wanted an opportunity to conclude on that particular matter.
Mr Mahama Ayariga, the MP for Bawku Central, and Member of the Appointment Committee, reiterated the reservations by the Minority side of the Committee on participating in the vetting of the Chief Justice Nominee.
That was because she participated in the decision of the Court involving Mr Gyakye-Quayson, which asked that his name be struck out of the records of MPs, he said.
He noted, however, that the Chief Justice nominee, as a member of the panel of the Court, did not give reasons for the judgement.
“So, as we speak, we don’t know the basis on which the court arrived at that conclusion and there is uncertainty among us members of Parliament,” he said.
“Knowing that our Supreme Court is also our Constitutional Court, that should guide us as a country in terms of how we run public affairs.”
Mr Ayariga said it was a very divisive matter and that the Minority thought the Court would have carried all of them along by giving the reasons for the judgement.
“… Because when the Court gives a judgement and doesn’t give a reason, in between, people fill it with propaganda and speculations, which just divide the country. It doesn’t help us to move along together as one people,” he said.
He said the reasons in that judgement would enable the Minority to evaluate the Chief Justice Nominee in addition to other information she had already provided to the House.
He noted that the Minority Members of the Committee reached a negotiated position with the colleagues on the Majority side in which they had been assured that they would not vote on the Chief Justice nominee after the hearing and that when the Supreme Court gave its reasons, they would have another opportunity to assess the nominee on the basis of the quality of the ruling, upon which the Committee could take a decision.
Justice Sackey Torkornoo, in her response, said: “I have delivered hundreds of judgements from the High Court till now, I think that it would have been of a great relief to know that I am assessed on my work as a whole.”
Touching on the judgements of the Supreme Court, she said the Supreme Court was not a Court unless five people were sitting and that in constitutional matters they were seven.
“So, seven people are working together and that is why very often, indeed, almost invariably every judgement given by the Supreme Court, the reasons come long after the orders and the rulings, because that is how we work,” Mrs Justice Sackey Torkorno said.
She said that the Supreme Court had a discretion to reserve its reasons for a later date and because of the nature of the panel, the Court took time to come up with its reasons to ensure that the outcome was accepted by every member of the panel.
Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, the First Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Appointment Committee, said the Committee had not precluded anybody from asking the Chief Justice nominee any question.
He noted that because the judgement of the Supreme Court was yet to be made available, that did not prevent the Committee from concluding its work; saying: “I don’t think we should encourage that kind of thing”.
Mr Alexander Kwamina Afenyo-Markin, the Deputy Majority Leader, urged the Supreme Court to exercise discretion in matters that were politically sensitive or else the whole nation could be thrown into a state of confusion.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in April, nominated Mrs Justice Torkorno to fill in the vacancy following the retirement of Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah.