Cap Supreme Court Judges at 17—Justice Honyenuga

A Supreme Court nominee, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, has suggested the number of judges at the apex court to be sealed at 17. 

Doing this would give the Chief Justice a pool of justices to choose from to sit on a particular case, he argued.

There have been fears over the years that a tyrannical president could pad the bench with members of his or her party for partisan gains hence compromising the independence of the judiciary in general and the Supreme Court in particular. 

Currently, the Constitution provides for not less than 10 judges, including the Chief Justice, on the Supreme Court bench but places no sealing on the numbers the bench should have.

“The Supreme Court shall consist of the Chief Justice and not less than nine other Justices of the Supreme Court,” Article 128(1) of the 1992 Constitution states. 

Appearing before Parliaments Appointments Committee in Accra yesterday following his nomination to the Supreme Court, Justice Honyenuga said pegging the number at 17 would help fill the gaps as may have be identified in the composition of the bench. 

“If I had my way, I would say we should seal the number at 17 but that must come by an amendment to Article 128(1) of the Constitution,” he told the committee. 

His suggestion was premised on the fact that at times there was extra pressures on justices because as the population of the country grew, cases continued to come thick and fast.

In his view, the high numbers at the bench would take off the pressure on the judges in the delivery of their mandate. 

For example, he said in 2009, four judges on the bench from the Akuapem area had to recuse themselves from a case involving the State and one Out Kumor of the Akuapem Traditional area in order not to foil their integrity. 

“So there was a problem and shortage of who should sit on this matter. 

“Therefore, the matter was delayed. I am proposing that we can give an upper limit of Supreme Court judges at 17 and I believe that will assist the Chief Justice in empanelling judges and we will have sufficient panel to take care of those who will recuse themselves in one way or the other.” 

In the quest to increase the numbers, however, the nominee said same must be ethnic, religious, regional and gender balanced but based on merit. 

He said the bench is the final place of adjudicator and everything must be done to protect and resource it to deliver quality justice to the people.

BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI 

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