Courts will now hear cases on weekends, public holidays and during periods of civil unrest to deal with issues that affect personal liberty after the Supreme Court unanimously ruled to amend Article 14(3) of the constitution.
The ruling was made by Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah, Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Justice Sule Gbadegbe, Justice Alfred Benin and Justice Nii Ashie Kotei and will be enforced after six months.
Subsequent to this ruling, the seven member jury instructed the Inspector General of Police, Registrars of the various Courts to ensure that the ruling of the Court is brought to the attention of all interested parties to ensure its enforcement. The Chief Justice must also, 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 liberty.
Similarly, the judicial secretary is to, within six months, make arrangements for overtime pay for officers of the courts, especially District courts, who will work on weekends and on public holidays for the purpose of same.
In September 2016, Martin Kpebu, a private legal practitioner, took the Attorney General to court, seeking an amendment of the Holidays Act – article 14 clause 3 of the 1992 Constitution – that bars the courts from dealing with cases that affect personal liberty are unconstitutional.
The article in question says;
“a person who is arrested, restricted or detained (a) for the purpose of bringing him before a court in execution of an order of a court; or (b) upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed or being about to commit a criminal offence under the laws of Ghana, and who is not released, shall be brought before a court within forty-eight hours after the arrest, restriction or detention.
In his suit, Martin Kpebu sought eight (8) reliefs from the Supreme Court, including “a declaration that on a true and proper interpretation of article 14(3) of the Constitution (1992) a Saturday, a Sunday, a public holiday, anytime during a civil unrest and any other day that the courts in Ghana cannot sit (e.g. during strike by judicial service staff or during a strike by any other stakeholder that will prevent the court from sitting) would be counted in reckoning the 48 hours within which a person arrested or detained on suspicion of committing a crime and not released must be brought before a court under article 14 (3) of the Constitution of Ghana (1992)”.
In reading what was her last decision as Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo stated that the portions of the Holidays Act preventing such access to justice are unconstitutional.