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Judiciary must open up to shed corruption perception –Justice Mariam Owusu

The Judiciary needs to open up to the public to shed the perception of being corrupt, Justice Mariam Owusu, a nominee to the Supreme Court has said. 

She said the past conservative nature of the Judiciary in Ghana created the impression that any monetary exchange on the premises of the courts could be a form of corruption. 

Justice Owusu said this yesterday at the Appointments Committee of Parliament in response to the high perception of corruption within the Judiciary. 

She was being vetted for the position of Justice of the Supreme Court having been nominated by the President. 

Justice Owusu said in order for the Judiciary to purge itself of such perception, ordinary people needed to be taken through processes of filing cases in courts. 

She said people come to court premises and pay monies to persons who could not meet their expectations and conclude that the system was corrupt. 

Justice Owusu said obviously the way to kill the corruption perception was for the courts to become more open to the public and get them to know the processes to understand how the Judiciary works. 

Though the court has been open to the public many people seemed intimidated by its conservative nature to allow their own perception to become Supreme. 

She alluded to the failure of many people to get to the Ghana Law School to the current situation where many people were doubling other professions with that of going to law school. 

Justice Owusu who was responding to the mass failure of students entering law school this year said, she did not believe that there was any agenda anywhere by anybody to close and narrow opportunities for entry to the school. 

Justice Owusu who is being elevated from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court after 13 years at the appellate court said she did not believe that a quota system has been created to stifle legal education. 

She said if by setting standard there was the need to undertake an examination before admissions, then that should strictly be adhered to. 

She said the mass failures therefore should not be seen as a way of depriving people opportunities adding that after all 400 people passed last year. 

Justice Owusu said the court was now encouraging the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as one of the means of reducing the back log of cases in the courts adding that the Chief Justice even would want to know how many cases were referred to ADR for adjudication during a legal year. 

On the issue of Spousal Rights, she said in the absence of any legal regime from Parliament, Supreme Court made a ruling based on equality and equity principle where spouses share properties acquired during the subsistence of the marriage equally. 

She said the principle was based on the fact that in any matrimonial settings, the woman’s share in creating wealth within the family was their contribution in keeping the home, so in case of divorce that would be considered as a factor for compensation. 

Justice Owusu applauded the e-justice system which has helped to remove the tortuous, cumbersome and frustrating process in the courts administration. 

She said unlike in the past when bulky documents needed to be moved to and from offices, this time it was a matter putting the soft copies on a pen drive to deliver the same results. 

Justice Owusu said that was reducing the time for those applying for copies of judgments since it has become a matter of giving the soft copy out after reading the judgement.

During the turn of Justice Avril Lovelace-Johnson, the second Justice Designate to the Supreme Court, she said she was against the death sentence because death spelt finality to life. 

She said judges as humans could make a mistake by pronouncing death sentence on people adding such a situation could not be reversed if the person was later found to be innocent. 

She said she was also not enthused with the automatic right of appeal which according to her has overburdened the Supreme Court adding that the appellate adjudication should have ended at the Appeals Court to give room to the apex court to deal with more policy and constitutional matters. 

Justice Lovelace-Johnson said she was in support of any Affirmative Action since any Bill to that effect was meant to correct specific and deliberate action to win the trust of the people. 

On sexual harassment at workplaces, she said there was the need to protect the interest of victims by not constituting a chauvinist committee which could intimidate a female complainant. 

She therefore advocated for a gender balance committee which must sit in camera to adjudicate over sexual harassment cases.

BY LAWRENCE MARKWEI 

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