One of the High Court judges who was implicated in the judicial corruption scandal Paul Dery has cited Appeals Court judge Justice Gertrude Torkonu for contempt.
She becomes the first superior court judge to be cited for contempt.
His suit follows an admission by Justice Torkonu that she erred in her ruling over a contempt case against investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas, the CEO of EIB Network Bola Ray and the Accra International Conference Center.
Justice Dery was hoping to prevent Anas and his partners including EIB Network from airing publicly the judicial corruption documentary. However, Torkonu, threw out the contempt case on the day the video was shown to over 4000 people.
Justice Torkonu has therefore “vacated” her ruling and has asked for the suit to be recalled. She admitted that her decision was based on an error on the part of the court registrar.
“I vacated my order of 28 September 2015, dismissing the application for account of registrar’s tampering with date. I set it aside totally and restore the application to the docket,” the judge said.
Per the submission of error, Dery’s affidavit in support of a motion for notice of contempt against Torkonu, said:
“I, His Lordship, Paul Uuter Dery of House Number B11, Okpoi Gonno, Spintex Road, Accra, do hereby make oath and say as follows:
1. That I am the Applicant herein and the deponent hereto.
2. That I depose to this affidavit in support referring to facts and matters that are either within my personal knowledge and belief or which are based on the information provided to me by third parties, which I verily believe to be true.
3. That on the 14th of September, 2015, I caused a Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim to be issued from the Registry of the High Court, Fast Track Division, titled His Lordship Paul Uuter Dery v. 1. Tiger Eye PI 2. The Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana 3. The Attorney General with suit number AP 228/2015 claiming the reliefs endorsed therein. (Attached and exhibited as “PUD 1” is the Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim).
4. That the Honourable Chief Justice empanelled Her Ladyship Justice Gertrude Torkornoo, a Court of Appeal Judge sitting as an additional High Court, to preside over all matters relating and arising out of the petition filed by Tiger Eye PI.
5. That I further caused to be filed an application for committal for contempt in the Registry of the High Court titled: The Republic v. 1. Anas Aremeyaw Anas 2. Samuel Frempong, 3. Ernest Addo, 4. Nathan Kwabena Anokye Adisi 5. Sulemana Braimah with suit number AP 238/2015 on the 18th of September, 2015. (Attached and exhibited as “PUD 2” is a copy of the application).
6. That the Registrar of the High Court, Fast Track Division, set down the said application for committal for contempt for hearing on the 12th of October, 2015.
7. That I received my copy of the motion from the Registry of the High Court bearing the date set for hearing as the 12th of October, 2015.
8. That without my knowledge or that of my lawyers, the Registrar of the High Court, Fast Track Division, together with the trial court judge, the Respondent herein, changed the date on which the matter was to be heard from the 12th of October, 2015 to 28th September, 2015.
9. That the trial High Court presided over by the Respondent herein proceeded to hear the motion for committal for contempt against the Respondents named in the application on the 28th of September, 2015, without issuing hearing notices to me or my Lawyers.
10. That the trial court judge heard the said motion on notice for committal of contempt on the 28th of September, 2015 and also gave an order for the 5th Respondent to appear before her on the 29th of September, 2015.
11. That the trial court judge heard the matter for committal for contempt on the 29th of September, 2015 without issuing hearing notice to me or my Lawyers.
12. That the trial court judge dismissed the motion for committal for contempt on the 29th of September, 2015 without giving me or my lawyer the opportunity to be heard. (Attached and exhibited as “PUD 3” are copies of the court’s proceedings and orders which the Respondent made on 28th and 29th September, 2015).
13. That in view of the Respondent’s blatant breach of the rules of natural justice, I caused to be filed an application in this Court with Suit No. J5/6/2016, seeking to prohibit the Respondent from sitting on my cases at the High Court. (Attached and exhibited as “PUD 4” is a copy of the said application).
14. That for similar reason deposed to in paragraph 13 supra, I again filed an application in this Court with Suit No. J5/9/2016, seeking an order to quash the proceedings and orders of the High Court in the contempt application on the 28th and 29th September, 2015, and prohibit the Respondent from hearing same if remitted for a trial de novo.
15. That despite the pendency of these two applications before this Court, the Respondent in outright disrespect of this Court caused a hearing notice to be served on me to appear before her on 3rd December, 2015, for the hearing of the same contempt application which the Respondent had already dealt with on the 28th and 29th September, 2015 and dismissed. (Attached and exhibited as “PUD 5”is a copy of the said Hearing Notice).
16. That it is trite law that once the Respondent had dealt with the contempt application, she is functus officio and she has no jurisdiction whatsoever to reopen same, more so when to her knowledge the Applicant herein filed an application in this Court to quash same and prohibit her from hearing the case.
17. That my Counsel wrote a letter to the Respondent and politely informed her that she was functus officio as far as the contempt application was concerned and that the matter was now before this Court. (Attached and exhibited as “PUD 6“is a copy of the said letter).
18. That the Respondent accordingly advised herself and did not sit on the application again on the 3rd December, 2015.
19. That the Respondent similarly caused a hearing notice to be served on me to appear before her on 15th December, 2015, for the hearing of the suit I filed on 14th September, 2015 with Suit No. AP 228/2015. (Attached and exhibited as “PUD 7” is a copy of the said Hearing Notice).
20. That the Respondent caused the said hearing notice to be served on me to appear before her on 15th December, 2015, in spite of the Respondent’s knowledge of an application in this Court seeking to prohibit her from sitting on the said case among others and a motion I filed asking her to recuse herself.
(Attached and exhibited as “PUD 8” is a copy of the said motion).
21. That when my lawyers appeared before the Respondent on the 15th December, 2015, the Respondent surprisingly purported to exercise jurisdiction over the contempt application although that was not the business of the day and gave a ruling vacating the earlier order she made dismissing the said application. (Attached and exhibited as “PUD 9” is a copy of the said ruling).
22. That it is my contention that the Respondent’s conduct of vacating her order made on the 28th and 29th September, 2015, was calculated to interfere with, prejudice and also to undermine the outcome of the two applications pending before this Honourable Court.
23. That the Respondent in her ruling dated 15th December, 2015, acknowledged that she was aware of my two applications pending before this Honourable Court seeking to quash her rulings of 28th and 29th September, 2015 and further seeking to prohibit her from presiding over any of my cases pending before the High Court.
24. That the relevant quotation from the Respondent’s ruling exhibited as “PUD 9”, dated 15th December, 2015, on page 2 states as follows: “I stated earlier that I have read with consternation these processes which are on the docket as matters of record because I am totally at a loss why such a manifest error by a Registrar should lead to Applicant’s Counsel taking the trouble and headache of appealing, filing for Judicial Review, filing the present application for recusal etc etc.”
25. That the Respondent in her ruling dated 15th December, 2015, exhibited as “PUD 9”, further stated unequivocally that her ruling is meant to interfere with the outcome of my application before this Honourable Court.
26. The relevant quotation from the Respondent’s ruling in support of my assertion in paragraph 25 supra can be found on page 3 of exhibit “PUD 9” as follows: “I vacate my Order of 28th September, 2015 dismissing the application for contempt on account of the Registrar’s tampering with the dates. I set it aside totally and restore the application to the docket. As much as this clearly takes the wind out of the sails of Plaintiff’s Counsel’s wings, I do so because it is the right and proper thing to do.”
27. That the law is that where a person knows that a case is sub judice, any conduct, act or omission by him that tends to prejudice or interfere with its fair trial amounts to contempt of court.
28. That in the eyes of the law, the state of affairs as at the time of filing the case should prevail in order to give the court free hand and open mind to investigate the complaints raised in the motions before the court.
29. That it is my contention that the Respondent’s conduct in causing the two hearing notices to issue and her sitting and ruling on the 15th December, 2015, was calculated to interfere and also to prejudice the determination of the issues before this Honourable Court.
30. That unless and until this Honourable Court convicts the Respondent herein, she will continue to intervene prejudicially in respect of the said cases before this Court.
31. In the circumstance, I pray that this obvious disregard to the Court amounts to nothing more than contempt of Court of which the Respondent ought to be convicted and punished.
WHEREFORE I swear to this affidavit in support of the motion.