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Judges' Pay Cut Case Withdrawn

Chief Justice Georgina Wood
The writ filed at the Supreme Court by Samuel Ampomah, a farmer, over government's decision to cut the salaries of judges of the lower courts by over 50% has been withdrawn.

The case was withdrawn in chambers after the farmer and Sylvester Williams, the state attorney who initiated the out of court settlement, were called by the seven-member panel presided over by Justice William Atuguba into the judges' chambers for a discussion.

The farmer who entered the chambers with his lawyer came out and said he had withdrawn the case to begin negotiations and terms of settlement.

The applicant who did not make any further comment noted that the judges had told him he could return to court anytime he felt the terms of settlement were unfavourable.

Slyvester Williams had, at the last hearing, pleaded with the court to adjourn the matter for an out of court settlement.

Other justices hearing the matter are Sophia Adinyira, Julius Ansah, Rose Owusu, Victor Jones Dotse, Kwasi Anin Yeboah and Paul Baffoe-Bonnie.

Mr Ampomah, also the founder of Advocacy for Peace, a non-governmental organization, dragged to court the Attorney- General and the Chief of Staff at the Presidency who purported to withdraw the approval granted for the pay increases of judges.

Other defendants include the Minister of Finance as well as the Controller and Accountant-General.

The farmer is seeking to invoke the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Articles 2, 17(2), 36(2), 127(1) and 5 of the Constitution.

Ampomah believed the letter by the Chief of Staff, dated April 10, 2013, which directed the Chief Justice and informed her of the State's decision to withdraw an approval of the judges' salary increase which he claimed, was done inadvertently, amounted to discrimination.

According to him, when other public servants such as Members of Parliament, the President and some members of the Judiciary, as well as civil servants, have had their salaries increased, the affected judges have had their salaries reduced.

In his statement of case, the plaintiff said the Chief of Staff's letter had breached Articles 17, 24, 36, and 127 of the Constitution which, among others, prohibited the variation of the salary of judges or any other person exercising any judicial power to their disadvantage.

The plaintiff stated that the A-G was the principal legal advisor to the President while the Chief of Staff purported to withdraw the pay increment of the judges.

Ampomah said the Finance Minister was the person responsible for ordering the release of money for the payment of all public servants while the Accountant-General was the one carrying out the orders of the Chief of Staff in respect of the payment from the coffers of the government for any amount of money including salaries of public servants.

According to him, on February 27, 2013, a letter with reference number ERFD/ 13 SAL/1 directed at the Accountant-General to commence payment of increased salaries to judges of the lower courts was sent out after a presidential commission. This was during the tenure of the late President, John Evans Atta-Mills.

He stated that it was carried out subsequently and the Circuit Court Judges and District Court Magistrates began enjoying new and improved salary levels till April 10, 2013, when the Chief of Staff wrote to the CJ, withdrawing the approval.

Furthermore, he said the Chief of Staff, in a letter dated November 10, 2013, directed the Accountant-General to stop payments to the lower court judges and discuss modalities to recover excess salaries paid to them, and this has breached their rights to work under satisfactory conditions.

 
By Fidelia Achama

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