The legal system and its impact on the business environment

The legal system and its impact on the business environment

The questions that any potential investor wants to be answered are on his personal safety and the security of his business concerns/ investments, which are both ensured by a robust legal regime.

Ghana is the hub of business activity and an attractive destination within the sub-region for investment, not only because of its promising economic indicators but also its sound political/legal climate. The siting of the secretariat of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area in Ghana buttresses this point.

The country boasts vibrant democratic principles with a constitution that guarantees and protects the fundamental human rights and freedoms of all persons within its jurisdiction. These rights are however subject to respect for the rights and freedom of others, and for the public interest.

These rights and freedoms are enshrined in the 1992 Constitution and upheld by the three arms of government: The Executive, headed by the President; The Legislature, headed by the Speaker of Parliament: and The Judiciary, headed by the Chief Justice and other agencies of government.

The Judiciary
The Judiciary is the branch of government that interprets, applies and enforces the laws of Ghana. It functions through the court system in both civil and criminal matters, including matters relating to the Constitution.

Ghana’s judiciary pursuant to the 1992 Constitution is very independent, not subject to the control or direction of any person or authority other than the Constitution. This can be attested to through several bold decisions taken by the Superior Courts

Divisions of the Court System: Superior and Lower Courts

The Superior Court is made up of: The Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and the Regional Tribunals; while the lower courts are made up of the circuit and district courts.

The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice and not less than nine other justices of the Supreme Court. It is the highest and final appellate court in Ghana. Appeals go from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court as of right in any civil or criminal case.

It has original and exclusive jurisdiction in all matters relating to the enforcement or interpretation of the 1992 Constitution and matters arising as to whether an enactment was made in excess of the powers conferred on Parliament by any authority or any person by law or under the Constitution.

The Supreme Court sits to do business with not less than five justices.

The Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal consists of the Chief Justice and not less ten justices of the Court of Appeal. It has no original jurisdiction but only sits to determine appeals from a judgment, or order of the High Court and/or the Regional Tribunals.

The High Court
The High Court consists of the Chief Justice and twenty justices of the High Court.

It has jurisdiction in all civil and criminal matters; it also hears appeals from the lower courts and other lower adjudicatory bodies, such as the House of Chiefs and Traditional Councils

It is constituted by a single judge sitting alone or with either a jury or assessors, depending on the subject matter.

The High Court in Ghana has the following specialised divisions: Commercial, Land, General Jurisdiction, Divorce and Matrimonial, Probate and Letters of Administration, Industrial/Labour, Criminal, and Financial and Human Rights.

Regional Tribunals
A Regional Tribunal consists of the Chief Justice, a Chairman and not less than two or more than four-panel members.

It has jurisdiction in only criminal matters – particularly offences under Chapter 4 of the Criminal Act1960(Act 29), offences under the Customs and income tax laws, narcotics and serious economic fraud, loss of state funds or property.

The Regional Tribunal does not try criminal offences which require a jury or assessors.

Lower Courts
The Lower courts comprise the Circuit, District, Juvenile Courts and the National and Regional House of Chiefs as well as the Traditional Councils.

Public Proceedings
In the interest of public morality, public safety or public order, proceedings of the court are generally held in the public except where publicity would prejudice the interest of justice, public defence, safety or morality, or the welfare of persons under the age of majority

Other Law Enforcement Agencies
There are other quasi-judicial bodies and law enforcement agencies in Ghana to help prevent or reduce crime, ensure safety and protect the rights and freedoms of all persons. Some of these are: The Police Service, The Prison Service, The Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, the National Labour Commission, the Economic and Organised Crime Office, the Narcotics Control Board and many more.

Ghana’s strong judicial independence contributes to its attractiveness as a business and investment enclave. Perhaps the only drawback is the slowness with which the wheels of justice grind – which is attributable to the quantity of cases. This not too impressive situation is being remedied through various measures, one of them being the recent adoption of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.


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