Contempt summons used to ensure Supreme Court not scandalised -- Torkornoo
Contempt summons are used by the law courts to protect the dignity of the judiciary, Chief Justice nominee Gertrude Torkornoo has said.
During her vetting by the Appointments Committee of parliament on Friday, 26 May 2023, Justice Torkornoo said: "The issuing of contempt summons has always been a tool that has been used by courts to ensure that the dignity of the court is not scandalised".
In reference to the highest court of the land, which recently issued one of such summons to Dr Michael Kpessa-Whyte of the National Democratic Congress for denigrating it, Justice Torkornoo said the Supreme Court "is one out of 400 courts and it is the ultimate voice, so, whenever the court acts, whether it is the High Court, Court of Appeal, or Supreme Court, it is to ensure that the Justice system is not scandalised".
My 'stupid court' tweet meant for USA Supreme Court but I 'sincerely apologise' for any 'pain, discomfort' caused Ghana SC -- Kpessa-Whyte
Meanwhile, Dr Kpessa-Whyte has 'sincerely apologised' to the Supreme Court of Ghana over a tweet which he said was meant for the Supreme Court of the United States of America, but has been linked to Ghana's by the Ghanaian media.
The former Shai Osu Doku parliamentary aspirant, in a statement, said he nonetheless takes full responsibility for his tweet and offered an unreserved apology to Ghana’s Supreme Court following a summons to him to appear before the apex judicial body to show cause why he should not be held in contempt for describing the court as "stupid".
The Research Fellow with the History and Politics Section at the Institute of African Studies (IAS), tweeted on the back of the Ghana Supreme Court’s declaration of the election of Mr James Gyakye Quayson of the Assin North consituency, as unconstitutional.
In that tweet on Friday, 19 May 2023, Dr Kpessa-Whyte said: “They have succeeded in turning a Supreme Court into a Stupid Court. Commonsense is now a scare commodity.”
He noted: “A major element in the death of democracies is partisanship in the delivery of justice.”
“Our judges need lessons in political philosophy and ethics,” he added.
A few days after that tweet, Dr Kpessa-Whyte tweeted again to delink his tweet from Ghana’s Supreme Court following some prompts.
He said: "Thanks to all who have asked questions about my May 19th, 2023 tweet. For the avoidance of doubt, I follow judicial decisions in many countries and, so, the said tweet cannot be pinned to Ghana. It has more to do with developments elsewhere including the US. We live in a global village.”
The Supreme Court, by a unanimous decision, ordered parliament to expunge the name of Mr Gyakye Quayson from the roll of MPs.
The court, on Wednesday, 17 May 2023, declared as unconstitutional, the election of Mr Gyakye Quayson as MP for Assin North.
A resident of Assin Bereku in the Central Region, Mr Michael Ankomah Nimfa, dragged Mr Quayson to court to restrain him from holding himself as MP after a Cape Coast High Court in July 2021 annulled his election as Assin North MP.
The petitioner had prayed the apex court that James Gyakye Quayson’s continuous stay in office despite a High Court judgment annulling his election offended the Constitution, and was not fair to the people of Assin North.
The Cape Coast High Court had ruled that Mr Quayson owed allegiance to another country other than Ghana at the time of filing his nomination forms to contest the 2020 polls.
The embattled MP had been challenging the decision by the high court at the Supreme Court.
In a retraction and apology statement issued on Thursday, 25 May 2023, Dr Kpessa-Whyte said: "I sent out a tweet on May 19, 2023, at 9:59 am, that shared my reflections on insights from a book by David A. Kaplan (2018) 'The Most Dangerous Branch: Inside the Supreme Court’s Assault on the Constitution', and recent attempts by some Democrats in the US to increase the number of Justices at the Apex Court from nine to thirteen".
"I have observed that Ghanaweb and other media publications sought to associate my tweet with the decision of the Supreme Court in the Assin North matter, as stated on the face of the summons to show cause, but honestly, at the time of my tweet, I had no knowledge of the Supreme Court’s decision as at 9: 59am when I did the tweet".
The lecturer continued: "The said tweet has resulted in the invocation of the powers of the Apex Court in our country for me to appear and show cause, because the tweet has scandalised the Apex Court of our land and has brought the dignity of the court into disrepute".
"Sincerely, the tweet was not done with the intent to scandalise or denigrate a revered institution such as the Supreme Court of Ghana for which I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration".
"These are consequences I never intended, although I do accept responsibility that, I could have exercised better judgment in my choice of words".
"Please permit me to state unequivocally that I have no reason to slander our Supreme Court, and I hereby sincerely apologise unreservedly for any pain and discomfort my tweets may have caused the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court, and the entire judiciary".
"I hereby retract the tweet in question; accordingly, the tweet has been deleted completely and I pray for forgiveness".
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