Summary

Ghana's legal system was built on a foundation of received Anglo-Saxon common law, statutory law, and other documents, such as those heralding the legal existence of various military regimes. In addition to this received and imposed law, there is an enduring body of largely unwritten customary usages and practices that still are a contextual feature of the modem legal system of Ghana.

The legal pluralism is evidenced by a co existence of indigenous customary laws and practice, which received Anglo-Saxon common law, and some religious law, especially in the areas of marriage and inheritance events of the past and more recent events have also shaped Ghana's legal system, and include the impact of British Colonialism, and more recently, its constitutional evolution, following independence.

Pre-Independence
The Stage was set for active British Administration of Ghana when, in 1859 and 1872, the Dutch transferred all their forts to the British and left Ghana. Ghana became one of the first territories, outside of England, to benefit from the English reforms brought about by the Judicature Acts of 1873-75 Structure of Court system.

Established by the Supreme Court Ordinance (1876) was Divisional and District Conunissioners' courts established as lower tier of Supreme Court. Supreme Court remained highest tribunal in Ghana during colonial era and appeals from it lay to the West African Court of Appeals (WACA). WACA was first established in 1866, petered out in 1873, and was re-established in 1928. Ghana withdrew from WACA following independence.

Post-Independence
There were few changes in court system, until, following first military coup in 1966, the National Liberation Council (N.L.C) passed a degree abolished the Supreme Court and vested judicial power in two sets of courts: the Superior Court of Judicature and the interior Courts. Constitution of Second Republic created a Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and High Court of Justice (as Superior Courts of Judicature) and same Inferior Courts were created by law.

In 1972, the Supreme Court was again abolished, this time by the National Redemption Council (N.R.C.), the military government that followed that of the Second Republic, reasoning that, with the suspension of the 1969 Constitution, there was no need for a court to interpret and enforce it. The functions of the Supreme Court were transferred to the full Bench of the Court of Appeal

The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (A.F.R.C.) handed over power to an elected government, the Third Republic, and the Supreme Court was re-established under the Third Republican Constitution. Following the same court structure provided for under the 1969 Constitution, there was a Superior Court consisting of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Court.

Inferior Courts
Circuit courts were introduced in 1960 and have become a permanent rung in the ladder of courts. These, along with the District Courts, make up the Inferior Courts.

Constitution of 1979
Preserves pattern of courts established since 1960. Supreme Court re-established and status quo has been maintained since the 1981 military coup, with slight diminution in number of members of the Court. An appeal lies as of right either from the High Court to the Court of Appeal or from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court.

Tribunals
In 1979, a Special Tribunal was created by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (A.F.R.C.D) Public Tribunals. In its constitutive document in 198 1, the Provisional National Defence Council (P.N.D.C.) continued the courts in existence with the same powers, duties and functions as before, while at the same time establishing independent Public Tribunals.

The purpose of the Tribunals as presently by constituted by law, (the original law was amended in 1984) is to achieve social justice, rather than the rule of law. The system provides for tribunals at the national, regional, district and community level and is governed by a Public Tribunal Board. The National Public Tribunal (N.P.T.) has original jurisdiction to hear cases resulting from the report of a Commission of Inquiry, other offenses arising under the Criminal Code, offenses relating to rent control, price control, exchange, government revenue, import or export, and any offense created by the Public Tribunals Law of 1984.

In summary, revolutionary enactments added enormously to the body of laws which relegate the relations between the citizens and the State. Several new offenses against the State have been created, just as public tribunals and other adjudicatory committees have been created to try many of these new offenses.

The former courts remain, but their criminal, as opposed to civil, jurisdiction has been drastically reduced and diluted, in practice, by the creation of parallel institutions such as the Public Tribunals, the Citizens' Vetting Committees and the National Investigations Committees. All this has led to a large increase in the prevalence of public law or those areas of law normally covered by such branches of the legal system as the criminal law, constitutional law and administrative law.

Currently the High Courts operate in distinct geographical jurisdictions rather than a single court throughout the country with branches in regional capitals. This has resulted in confusion as to where suits are to be filed, and for the opportunity to appeal based on argument that the case was initially filed in the wrong region, and has also resulted in suits being brought in two places.

Presently, increased population and rapidly expanding central and local government regulation of life and business clearly require more courts and arbitral or dispute settlement institutions. There are currently 5 levels of courts: district courts, circuit courts, High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court A 3-tiered appeals system exists within this 5-rung ladder, from the inferior courts to the High Court, and from the High Court to the Court of Appeal, and from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court.

TODAY
The equality of all persons before the law and their freedom to enforce their rights and liberties in a Court of Law is guaranteed under the Constitution. The independence of the Judiciary from the Executive and the Legislature is entrenched in the Constitution.

The Judiciary is the branch of government given authority to interpret, apply and enforce the laws of Ghana.

The Judiciary shall be made up of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, High Court and Regional Tribunals and such Lower Courts and Tribunals as Parliament may establish and shall have the Chief Justice as the Head, who shall be responsible for its administration and supervision.The amendment of the Courts Act (Act 620) 2002 abolishes community and Curcuit Trabunals and re-establish the Curcuit and Magistrate Courts

The Supreme Court is given power as the highest authority to interpret the Constitution and shall have final auth6rity to say what the law is including determining whether any acts of Parliament or the President is in violation with the Constitution. The High Court shall also have the power to enforce the Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms under the Constitution.

All citizens as guardians of the Constitution have the right and unimpeded access to the Courts to challenge any acts of the President, Parliament or any other body public or private which are inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution.

In furtherance of the principle of Independence of the Judiciary, the administration of Judiciary shall be independent of executive control and the institution of public and customary tribunal approved by Parliament.

The Court of Appeal shall also have jurisdiction (a) to hear appeals from any judgment of a Circuit Court in a civil cause or matter; and (b) in any matter in which jurisdiction is conferred on the Court under any other enactment.

Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, the High Court shall have- (a) an originall jurisdiction in all matters (b) appellate jurisdiction in a judgment of the Circuit Court in the trial of a criminal case;(c) appellate jurisdiction in any judgment of a District Court or Juvenile Court; (d) jurisdiction to enforce the Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution; and (e) any other jurisdiction conferred by the Constitution, this Act or any other enactment.

The following are by Act 620 established as the lower courts of the country-(a) Circuit Courts; (b) District Courts; (c) Juvenile Courts) the National House of Chiefs, Regional Houses of Chiefs and every Traditional Council, in respect of the jurisdiction of any such House or Council to adjudicate over any cause or matter affecting chieftaincy; and(e)such other lower courts as Parliament may by law establish.

Lawyers holding office as Chairmen of Circuit Tribunals and Community Tribunals immediately before the commencement of this Act shall on the coming into force of this Act, hold office as Circuit Court Judges or District Court Magistrates respectively.

The provisions of this Act shall apply notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the principal enactment or any other enactment.

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