The Chief Justice, Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood, on Monday said to ensure and maintain rule of law, it was essential that the judiciary as a whole was relatively free from all outside interference.
She said in addition to institutional independence, there must also be individual judicial independence or decisional independence , adding, judicial independence alone cannot secure the rule of law without judicial integrity.
Mrs Justice Wood said this at the annual conference of the Ghana Bar Association in Cape Coast under the theme, “The Judiciary, the Rule of Law and National Development”.
She said there was the need as a country to recognize that the independence of the judiciary was essential if judges were to make impartial decisions free from outside interference but stressed that the judicial independence was not an end in itself but a means to an end.
The Chief Justice noted that the linkages between judicial independence and economic development are well recognized in development literature and highly touted by the leading multinational development agencies such as the World Bank and the IMF and that it was only where an independent judiciary exist that investors feel a sense of security for their investment .
According to her, for courts to appear just, they must not be influenced by any outside source or appear to be capable of such influence and to avoid such a perception, they must have no real or apparent contact with any sectional interest.
Mrs Justice Wood pointed out that if judges are to be the independent guardians of rule-of-law values, they must be incorruptible, adding, judges are entrusted with ultimate decision over the life freedoms, duties , rights, and property of citizens and that they would never win the respect and trust of citizens if they are subject to corrupt influence.
“Whenever a judge makes a decision for personal gain or to carry favour or to avoid censure that act denigrates the Rule of Law”, she added
She said judges must not only avoid impropriety, but also the appearance of impropriety if public confidence in the judiciary is to be maintained and urged them to continue to earn that trust by insisting on the highest standards of ethical conduct , which include hard work, adding, “ there is no quicker way to undermine the rule of law than for judges to fail to live up these noble standards”
The Chief Justice noted that the degree of judicial independence is correlated with economic growth, of which better performing courts have been shown to lead to more developed economics as investment flourishes and confidence in economic transaction grow.
“A stronger judiciary is associated with more rapid growth of small firms as well as larger firms in the economy”.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Martin Amidu, commended the Ghana Bar Association for its role in ensuring good governance and rule of law in the country.
According to him, the association has played leading roles in the construction and writing of all the constitutions of the country and that it has over the years advocated various perspectives of the rule of law before the courts resulting in judgments which have guided the development of the constitution, the law and the nation.
The minister noted that Ghana has been touted as an oasis of peace because the Judiciary has been able to hold the scale between disputing parties in such a way as to create an enabling environment for smooth social, economic and political interaction.
He said the judiciary has the responsibility to keep the judiciary independent, stressing that the nation had diverse people and any perception of partisanship in the judiciary would create unnecessary acrimony and suspicion.
The Central Regional Minister, Mrs Ama Benyiwa-Doe, underscored the important role the GBA play in the dispensation of justice, rule of law and good governance in the country and urged them to continue to perform their roles diligently to ensure true rule of law and democracy.
She however called on them to come up with programmes that would help address issues such as overcrowding in the nations prisons, delay judicial matters, and high legal charges by some lawyers.
Mr Frank Beecham, National President of the Ghana Bar Association, called on the public to criticize the judiciary constructively adding, the association was embarking on a war against corrupt judges and lawyers.
He admitted that there were cases of bribery and corruption in the judiciary service but that it was a two way programme of which “you have the bribe giver and the recipient” and called on all stakeholders including churches to help address the indiscipline in the judicial service .
He called on lawyers to charge reasonable legal fees to enable all to access legal services in the country and also endeavour not to over load themselves with cases that they cannot handle thereby delaying the judicial process.
Present at the conference was Nana Akuffo-Addo, New Patriotic Party Presidential Candidate.