One of the judges brought down by the Anas Aremeyaw Anas and his Tiger Eye PI exposé on corruption in the judiciary has had his retirement benefits restored to him.
The Supreme Court said the retirement benefits of Justice Kwame Ohene-Essel (rtd) should be restored after successfully making a case that he was never impeached by the Judicial Service in 2015 following the scandal.
The retired Tarkwa High Court judge in the Western Region was ordered by the then Chief Justice, Justice Georgina Theodora Wood (rtd), to hand over all properties of the Judicial Service in light of his approaching retirement on August 23, 2017 and proceed on retirement without his pension benefits, pending the determination of impeachment proceedings against him when the Anas exposé hit the public.
In a judgement, a seven-member panel of the Supreme Court presided over by Justice Jones Dotse held that the retired judge was entitled to his retirement benefits as he was never impeached which would have taken away those benefits away from him.
It was the reasoning of the apex court that Justice Ohene-Essel was not impeached, neither did the Chief Justice set up any committee to conduct impeachment proceedings against him as of the time he retired as a judge.
Judicial Service Scandal
Justice Ohene-Essel was among a number of judges and Judicial Service staff who were either dismissed or suspended over of taking a GH¢1,000 bribe through his court clerk which was later handed to him in his residence.
The then Chief Justice GeorginaWood, acting through the then Deputy Judicial Secretary, ordered him to proceed on leave without processing his pension benefits until the determination of impeachment proceedings against him.
The retired judge then went to the High Court to challenge the order and the court presided over by Justice Gifty Agyei-Addo referred the matter to the Supreme Court to determine whether on proper interpretation and or construction of Article 146 (3) and (5) the retired judge can be permitted to enjoy his rights under Article 155 (1) (b) of the 1992 Constitution upon his retirement.
The seven-member panel of the court, in a unanimous decision, held that the failure by the Chief Justice to set up a committee to commence impeachment proceedings against Justice Ohene-Essel before he went on retirement meant he could not be impeached because such a constitutional process did not apply to judges on retirement.
The court, presided over by Justice Jones Dotse and assisted by Justices Gabriel Pwamang, Samuel Marful-Sau, Agnes Dordzie, Nene Amegatcher, Prof. Nii Ashie Kotey and Mariama Owusu, ruled that “impeachment proceedings cannot be commenced in respect of a retired judge. After all, if the process is completed, and the recommendation is for removal from office, from where will he be removed from and to what effect?”
The court also held that as of the time Justice Ohene-Essel attained the age of 65 and compulsorily retired on August 23, 2017, no committee had been set up by the Chief Justice to investigate the allegations levelled against him and to make recommendations as to whether or not he should be removed from office as a judge per Article 146 (5) of the 1992 Constitution.
It was this reasoning that informed the court decision that the retired judge was entitled to all pension and gratuity benefits as provided for under Article 155 (1) (b) of the Constitution 1992.
BY Gibril Abdul Razak