• Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin — Speaker of Parliament
The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has called for mutual respect between Parliament and the Judiciary in the discharge of their respective duties.
He said it had taken a long period of history, lessons and effort to achieve a cordial and harmonious relationship between the Judiciary and the Legislature, which must be safeguarded.
In a communication read on the floor of the House, Mr Bagbin said his attention had recently been drawn to attempts by some MPs to decline or evade service of court processes, while Parliament was on recess.
He said it had also come to his notice that some members were arraigned and charged with various offences without any notice to the Speaker.
He said that conduct was an aberration and should not be repeated.
Mr Bagbin, therefore, asked parliamentarians to accord members of the Judiciary and the Judicial Service the outmost respect, decency and decorum they deserve.
Article 117 of the 1992 Constitution provides that “civil or criminal process coming from any court or place out of Parliament shall not be served on or executed in relation to, the Speaker or member or the Clerk to Parliament while he is on his way to, attending or returning from any proceedings of Parliament”.
That provision, he said, meant that members might only avail themselves of this immunity when Parliament was in session.
He said proceedings of the House had been defined to include sittings, meetings and activities of Parliament and its committees.
Mr Bagbin, however, noted that the constitutional provision which stated that members should not be served with court processes while Parliament was in session had in some instances been disregarded by some court officials.
“In a letter dated February 19, 2021 and addressed to the Chief Justice and Head of the Judicial Service, I indicated my strongest reservations with the attempt by officers of the Judicial Service to serve court processes on some Members of Parliament, the Clerk to Parliament and the Speaker of Parliament, while these office holders were attending to the proceedings of Parliament at the precincts of Parliament when Parliament was in session,” he said.
He said the Chief Justice, in a letter dated February 22, 2021, respectfully acknowledged these breaches of the Constitution by officers of the Judicial Service.
Mr Bagbin subsequently issued some guidelines to ensure that the peculiar rights enjoyed by the House collectively and by members individually, as stated in the Constitution, were respected, while at the same time ensuring that the administration of justice was not obstructed.
“When a Speaker, Member of Parliament or Clerk to Parliament is in the precinct of Parliament, there is a presumption that the Speaker, Member of Parliament or Clerk to Parliament is attending to a proceeding of Parliament and cannot be served a process from any court or place out of Parliament.
“But when Parliament is on recess, the presumption can be said to be rebuttable and Members of Parliament may be served a process from any court or place out of Parliament whether the member is in the constituency, in the private office outside Parliament or at his residence,” he stated.