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President Nana Akufo-Addo has dismissed as baseless, a petition filed by the Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA) that demanded the removal of Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah in connection with an allegation made against him by a lawyer to the effect that he had demanded a $5-million bribe in exchange for a favourable hearing in a case pending before the courts.
A letter from the presidency to ASEPA said the allegation was based on third- and fourth-hand hearsay, adding: “The petition is dismissed accordingly”.
“The petition is devoid of any basis warranting the setting up of a committee under Article 146 (6) to undertake the very serious business of removing a Chief Justice from office”, the letter further noted.
Hours before the letter became public, the Executive Director of ASEPA, Mr Mensah Thompson, had warned President Nana Akufo-Addo against interfering in the probe.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, 23 August 2021, Mr Thompson said: “We contend that the president should not interfere with this constitutional process and must stay with his function”.
“A prima facie determination is not a full-scale investigation”, he noted.
“We cannot afford to allow needless doubts and shadows of corruption to hang on the neck of the judiciary, let alone the Chief Justice”, he added.
According to him, “it is in this vein that we have taken this step”.
“We hope that the principal actors clothed with the responsibility to bring finality to this matter ensure that they keep this at the back of their minds in furtherance of the utmost preservation of the judiciary and democracy”, he said.
A few days ago, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) said it had suspended its probe of the allegation, for which the ombudsman had been petitioned by ASEPA.
According to CHRAJ, it would be superfluous probing the matter as the same organisation also petitioned President Nana Akufo-Addo over the same matter.
“Since the matter is pending in the appropriate constitutional forum, the commission, in the exercise of its discretion under Section 13 of Act 456, hereby ceases to investigate the complaint any further as the invocation of the Article 456 proceedings has effectively taken the matter out of the forum of the commission,” CHRAJ said in a letter to ASEPA.
ASEPA filed the CHRAJ petition on 12 July 2021 under Article 218(a) and (e) of the 1992 Constitution.
CHRAJ said while it was conducting preliminary investigations into the instant complaint, “it was brought to its attention that the complainant has also petitioned the President of the Republic under Article 146 of the 1992 Constitution for the removal of the Respondent as Chief Justice, grounding the petition on the same allegations of bribery and corruption”.
“The said petition was submitted to the office of the president on the 13th of July 2021, a day after the instant complaint was lodged with the commission”, CHRAJ observed in the letter signed by its Commissioner, Joseph Whittal.
“While it may be conceded that the complainant in the instant matter before the commission did not claim, as a specific relief, the removal of the respondent, it is discernible from its invocation of Article 146 that, that is the ultimate destination of the complainant”, CHRAJ said.
It added: “The procedure for the removal of a Chief Justice having been specifically provided for in Article 146, it is our considered view that the provisions of the said article take precedence over the general provisions of Article 218”.
It said: “Section 13(1) gives discretion to the Commission when confronted with a situation such as this, where there is provision of law, as set out in Article 146 to deal with matters of this nature, and the complainant has taken advantage of it as evidenced by its petition to the President under the said Article, to refuse to investigate the matter.”
Meanwhile, the Council of State, on Friday, 20 August 2021, presented its report to the president.
The president said: “I will apprise you [Council of State] of my own findings on the matter”, adding: “I am hoping that my consultation will establish that there is unanimity between you and me on this matter before we can go on.”
Responding to the decision by CHRAJ to discontinue the probe, Mr Thompson said: “As for CHRAJ’s report, there is a very high likelihood that we will challenge this action in court”.