The Minority in Parliament has tabled a motion to pass a vote of censure against the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame.
The move by the MPs is in reaction to what they deem Mr Dame’s refusal to implement a resolution of Parliament directing the General Legal Council (GLC) that he (Godfred Dame is a part) to admit some 499 students into the Ghana School of Law.
“That This Honorable House passes a vote of censure on the Honourable Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, in respect of the following conduct: Refusal, without justifiable basis, to implement the resolution of this Honorable House unanimously passed on October 29, that the General Legal Council admits into the Ghana School of Law 499 students who sat for and passed the entrance examination of the Ghana School of Law for the 2021/22 legal year In accordance with its own published grounds rules, Impugning the image and integrity of this Honorable House through statements unbecoming of the holder of the office of Attorney General and Minister of Justice of this Republic,” the memorandum to the Speaker stated.
Opposition lawmakers are clearly unhappy that the Attorney General failed to comply with the resolution they passed to get the law students who obtained the 50 per cent pass mark in the entrance examinations admitted into the law school.
Mr Dame had told to Parliament that the resolution they passed was not binding.
The AG indicated that Parliament is devoid of the power through the use of Parliamentary resolutions, to control the process of admission into the Ghana School of Law.
The House on Friday, October 29 resolved that all LLB students who obtained the 50 per cent pass mark in the law school entrance examinations should be admitted. The unanimous decision was arrived at by voice votes in Parliament.
But in a response, the AG said “Respectfully, I am aware of a resolution passed by Parliament at its sitting on Friday, 29th October 2021 in these terms: … The General Legal Council is hereby directed to proceed and admit all the students who passed in accordance with the advertised rules of the examinations.. The Attorney-General is the leader of the bar in Ghana and he must see to it that the directive that 499 students who scored 50 marks are admitted is complied with.
“We do not want to get to contempt of Parliament issues. Whilst recognising the general legislative powers of Parliament in Ghana, except as have been circumscribed by the Constitution, I am constrained to advise that Parliament is devoid of power through the use of Parliamentary resolutions, to control the process of admission into the Ghana School of Law.
“The mode of exercising legislative power enshrined in article 106 of the Constitution does not admit of resolutions.
“In accordance with section 13(1)(e) and (f) of the Legal Profession Act, 1960 (Act 32), the power to regulate the admission of students to pursue courses of instruction leading to qualification as lawyers and to hold examinations which may include preliminary, intermediate and final examinations has been vested in the General Legal Council.
“It is correct that section 1(5) of Act 32 stipulates thus: “The Council shall in the performance of their functions comply with any general directions given by the Minister”.
“In my respectful opinion, this provision underscores the capacity of the Executive, not the Legislature, through the Minister responsible for the General Legal Council, i.e. the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, to direct and advise the Council on major matters of national importance.
“In this regard, it is pertinent to indicate that by a letter dated 18th October 2021 received at my office on 21* October 2021, His Excellency the President forwarded the contents of a petition by the “499 candidates” to me for my comments in order to enable him to respond. Another petition dated 20th October 2021 by the National Association of Law Students was also delivered to the President.
“Upon delivery of my comments on the matters raised in both petitions and following further consultations with my good self, by a letter dated 26th October 2021 (three clear days before the resolution of Parliament), received at my office on 27th October 2021, the President directed me to, pursuant to section 1(5) of Act 32, … make the necessary intervention to the General Legal Council, on behalf of the 499 students, to address the issue …
“Within the constraints of the law, I am following up on the directive of the President to make the necessary interventions on behalf of the ‘499 students’ Be that as it may, it is imperative to correct a few erroneous impressions contained in the impugned Parliamentary resolution of 29th October 2021. The notice in the Daily Graphic of 14th May 2021 inviting applications from suitably qualified Ghanaians for admission into the Ghana School of Law did not state a pass mark of fifty per cent (50%) or any at all as a basis for admission. The notice stated that applicants may be granted admission if they have passed the entrance examination conducted by the GLC.
“The notice also did not state the manner in which a pass mark set by the GLC would be determined. It is clear, therefore, that, a contention that the “originally announced” or “advertised” pass mark was “50%”, is erroneous and insupportable.
In so far as any matter bordering on a ‘pass mark’ is concerned, the notice in the Daily Graphic stated as follows:
“E. ADMISSION PROCEDURE
The admission process is as follows:
(i) The General Legal Council determines the number of candidates to be admitted to the Professional Law Course for the academic year.
(ii) Applicants may be granted admission if they have passed the written examinations organized by the General Legal Council for the
2021/2022 Academic Year, on payment of the required fee and submission of the application form and all supporting documents required online.
On this same issue, Executive Director of the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), Professor Henry Kwasi Prempeh also said the resolution was not binding.
Prof Prempeh who is also a Ghanaian lawyer explained on the Key Points on TV3/3FM Saturday, October 30, with host Dzifa Bampoh that Parliament makes a number of resolutions, of which some are binding and others are not.
The one directed to the GLC and the law school, he said, fell in the latter category.
Prof Prempeh said “I am delighted to see Parliament really weigh in on this matter. This is a long-running battle and I think that it is good to have the political class weigh in this way.
“Parliament makes decisions in a number of ways. They can pass a bill, if signed it becomes an Act of Parliament. It also operates by passing resolutions. Some of the resolutions are binding, some are not binding.
“This is one of the resolutions in the latter category, it is not binding. But, it does register Parliament’s collective disapproval of the way and manner in which a statutory body like the GLC has been handling this matter of access to legal education.”
During the debate on the floor of the Huse on Friday, October 29, Member of Parliament for Asawase, Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak told the GLS and the Law school that the study of law in Ghana is not limited to a select few.
He said all Ghanaians are allowed to pursue legal education and education in general.
He said “I know that there are a lot of institutions in this country that are very conservatives but with the kind of problem we have as a country you cannot give a conservative position and expert to make progress . This idea, with the greatest respect to the former Chief Justice, that we won’t open up for anybody to become a lawyer. Who is anybody? Every Ghanaian matter just as your son and daughters.
“It is not the sons of lawyers and doctors or politicians or the influential that have the only right to be able to have access to any profession in this country. If they don’t know we must tell that they should go and admit everybody who has passed before the next academic year starts.
Deputy Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin, said the GLC and the Ghana School of Law would be acting in bad faith if they fail to heed the resolution passed by Parliament for all the LLB students who obtained the 50 per cent pass mark to be admitted into the law school.
“We are telling the Ghana law school that they continuously frustrating students, they are making the study of law unattractive. I know that the post call students they had started lectures , they started last week but for the Professional law they are starting next week,” he said on the floor of the House.
“It is not too late to admit them because they have passed,” he added.
In a subsequent interview with TV3’s Komla Klutse, Mr Afenyo-Markin said “For anybody who may think that they may exercise a discretion not to respect our directive, I will say, that will be in bad faith for them to fail to respect this directive of Parliament.
“We have a responsibility and we are simply re-echoing what they themselves have said publicly. That is why we added that yes, the Learned Attorney General with oversight responsibility should ensure that they comply with the resolution passed by Parliament.
“If a body, recognized by law will refuse a resolution of parliament then I think that body does not believe in the rule of law and I don’t think that is what the General Legal Council and Ghana School of Law will do. It has the Chief Justice as its head and we believe that he as Chair will take this in good faith and quickly take steps to address this.
“I will not want to go into the issue of contempt, whether if they fail we would have to take another step. We know that the constitution is clear on failing to comply with parliamentary orders but I don’t think we will get there.”
This development emerged at a time the Human Rights Division of the Accra High Court adjourned the case brought before it by some ‘failed’ LLB students against the General Legal Council (GLC) and the Attorney General (AG).
On Friday October 29, the court presided over by Justice Nicholas Mensah Abodakpi adjourned the case to November 9 after the Attorney General requested for a short adjournment to file certain processes.
“With the consent of the parties and their lawyers this case would be adjourned to Nov 9, 2021,” the judge is reported to have said.
The students are demanding that the court “further retrains the respondents from treating the applicants as students who failed the said examinations pending the final examination of this matter on grounds set forth and such further orders the court may deem fit.”
They also want a declaration that the failure of the 2nd respondent (the Attorney General) to reign in the 1st respondent for the conduct of the 1st Respondent as stated constitute a dereliction of the 2nd respondent’s duties under Act 32.