By: Akosua Frema Frempong
The Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah says Ghana has come too far in the democratic trajectory to allow the process to be derailed.
He pointed out Freedom, Rule of Law and Justice, as the main pillars.
In his view, what is more important now to sustain Ghana’s democracy in the area of adopting information technology in the delivery of justice, given the challenges created by COVID-19, such as financial, infrastructural, administrative and human resource constraints.
Justice Anin Yeboah made the observation at the 2022 Edition of the Annual Chief Justice’s Forum held in Kumasi. The Annual Chief Justice’s Forum was introduced to engage stakeholders in the administration of justice to deliberate on issues bothering on the justice delivery system towards enhancing the efficiency of justice delivery in Ghana.
It also serves as a feedback mechanism for the Judicial Service, to know and address concerns of the public to enhance justice delivery.
The event is also used to promote accountability and transparency for mutual trust among the Judiciary and Court users. The forum is held on a rotational basis.
The 2022 Edition was held in Kumasi.
The event brought together representatives of the Judicial Service, Traditional Authority, Ministries, Departments and Agencies; Local Authorities, the Security Services Non-Governmental Organizations, Ghana Bar Association, Academia; among other segments of the society. The Forum was on the theme: ‘’Improving Access to Justice In a Pandemic through the Use of Technology.’’ The Chief Justice, Justice Anin Yeboah, said the use of Technology in justice delivery comes with numerous benefits.
“The impact of technology on our justice delivery system in Ghana is further evidenced by the Judicial Service’s E-Justice system. This system has, for instance, made it possible for court users to file processes and make payments, without the need of coming to the court premises. In some instances, lawyers even receive emails about adjournments. The system has also made it possible for relevant administrative persons to allocate cases to judges, track the progress of cases, store electronic copies of case dockets, and generate important statistics, among other things.
The modest achievements I have described portend the heights that a well-resourced and technologically inclined judiciary can reach. The lessons from the piloting of these interventions would, by all means, inform how the system would be ameliorated, and hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, these would be permanent features of the judicial system we can deploy in all courts across the country.”
The Mamponhene, Daasebre Osei Bonsu advised young legal practitioners to seek guidance from their seniors in the discharge of their duties. The President of the BAR association, Mr. Yaw Acheampong Boafo encouraged the Judicial Service to improve and extend electronic filing and electronic management systems at all levels of the courts to ensure efficiency and expeditious adjudication of cases.
“Despite the benefits of digitization and technology in improving access to justice in Ghana, there are known challenges: These include but not limited to inadequate digital infrastructure, connectivity gaps and the cost of access to the internet which appears to be high and thus beyond the means of the average Ghanaian.
Another barrier to accessible Justice has to do with how the public access and use judgments and decisions from our Courts- especially the Superior Courts. There is a notion that judgments of the Courts are public documents.
To a large extent, most of the judgments from our courts are accessible via subscriptions with varied menu or packages which drive cost upwards, resulting in an unfortunate situation where in most cases, one’s ability to access such judgments- and readily- depends on one’s pocket, which hurts the poor and vulnerable more.
Access to legal information is a key cog of accessible justice. But it is not only about lack of information and how existing information is distributed. It is also about misinformation about the law and decisions of our courts.
By way of a more affordable alternative to the above, it is proposed for the Superior Courts- especially the Supreme Court- to consider setting up and maintaining social media accounts- especially on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook- where some selected public interest decisions of the court would be posted, summarized and explained in plain non-legal language to the public for them to understand the decisions, their significance and how they affect their businesses, livelihoods, marriages, security and aspirations”.