Minority tells NDC to take a dose of their own bitter medication

Whether President John Evans Atta Mills nomination of new judges to the Supreme Court was an addition or replacement of members of the bench took centre stage in Parliament on Friday. This was precipitated after the Minority Leader had asked if the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), would be ready to accept the harsh accusations made against the main opposition, New Patriotic Party (NPP)for appointing more judges to the same court when in power. Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu recounted how in 2002, when new judges were appointed to the Supreme Court, some leading members of the NDC accused the Kufuor administration of manipulation the delivery of justice by packing the court to favour the government. The Minority, who was contributing to a debate to adopt a report of the Appointments Committee on the President's nominations to the Supreme Court, questioned if the NDC would accept the same accusations, now that three Appeals Courts judges were being nominated to the Supreme Court. Quoting from page 33 and other sections of the NDC manifesto, which he said sought to inform Ghanaians that the NDC when voted into power would uphold the independence of the judiciary which appeared to be under threat under the NPP government, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu asked why the NDC had now thought it wise to nominate three more judges to bring the total number of judges at the Supreme Court to 14. "Why 14 now. Can the same arguments be raised against President Mills of packing the Supreme Court?" He also raised issues over setting an upper limit to the number of judges to the court and why there was an even number of 14 judges instead of an odd one to break a deadlock during decision taking. Mr Edward Doe Adjaho, Chairman of the Appointments Committee, supported by the Deputy Majority Leader, John Tia, countered with arguments that the memorandum accompanying the letter from the Presidency on the nominations to the Speaker, had indicated that the nominees were replacing judges who had retired or died and therefore the NDC could not be accused of packing the Supreme Court with numbers. Mr Adjaho asked the Minority Leader to speak to the motion, which was basically concerned with seeking parliamentary approval for the nominees and not to politicise the issue because it had to do with the judiciary. He also suggested that in future the Appointments Committee may have to evolve and define the parameters to be used in vetting judges to ensure due diligence was done in the vetting process. Mr Adjaho's comments followed an issue raised by Dr Matthew Prempeh, NPP Member of Parliament for Manhyia, who had said a more thorough job needed to be done by the Committee when vetting the judges since their judgment was binding. The House approved the nomination of Justice Benjamin Aryeetey, Justice Vida Akoto Bamfo and Justice Nasiru Sulemana Gbadegbe to the Supreme Court.