Abolish Outdated Writ System; Embrace Technology – Atuguba

A Senior lecturer at the University of Ghana Faculty of Law, Dr. Raymond Atuguba, has called for an immediate scraping of Ghana’s writ system which he said is not consistent with the needs and circumstances of the majority of Ghanaians.

He made the proposal at the just-ended 2017 Annual Conference of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) in the Brong Ahafo Regional capital, Sunyani.

Dr. Atuguba, who delivered a keynote address at the conference, argued that court procedures will be much easier and time-saving if the country moves to initiating almost all of its legal processes through technology.

Under the current system, civil proceedings shall be commenced by the filing of a writ of summons which is granted by the court and issued to the defendant to appear before court on a set date.

It must involve physical appearance in court for examination, and putting up an oral defense and evidence.

The existing system also creates room for lawyers to seek an extension of time before judgment, only when they are physically represented in court.

But Dr. Atuguba believes that inclining towards the Applications will be revolutionary and reduce the period of litigations to a maximum time of 6 months in Civil cases.

“I am here today to recommend that we abolish the writ. Let us do away with the old, cumbersome way of initiating actions in our courts. We can easily abolish the writ and replace it with Apps for 99% of cases!” he said.

In his proposal, Dr. Atuguba indicated that, the average suit should consist of a motion, moving the court to grant the reliefs sought by the plaintiff with the necessary documentation including affidavits of all witnesses relevant to the case.

He said the plaintiff will also need to present a statement of case, indicating all of the law that he or she relies on in support of the case.

“The defendant, where he has a counter-claim against the plaintiff, is free to file a counter motion. She must also file counter affidavits and a statement of case in the same manner as the plaintiff.”

“The plaintiff may file her case at any time she is ready. The defendant should be given 30 days to file her defence. The plaintiff should be given 7 days to file a Reply, if need be. The judge should be given 30 days to peruse the documentation and set a date within one week of the expiration of that one month for oral arguments, lasting no more than 30 minutes for each party to the suit.”

“The judge may use this opportunity to seek any clarifications on any of the material that has been filed; or request the parties or their lawyers to file written submissions on any matter in issue that has not been sufficiently addressed in the Statements of Case. The judge then sets a date for judgement within 8 weeks from the date for oral arguments. Applications for extension of time should be made and granted by email and should in total not exceed 30 days. This way, every case would take less than 6 months to be disposed of.”

Applications for extension of time should be made and granted by e-mail, and should in total not exceed 30 days. This way, every case would take less than 6 months to be disposed of.”

Dr. Atuguba noted that, there may however be some cases that require oral evidence and the need for the judge to observe the posture and demeanor of the witnesses to make judgment, and suggested that such occasional cases could be made to proceed under the old rule.

“In those 1% of cases we will still, as lawyers, we should be be able to put on spectacular performances for our clients,” he added.