Columnist: TONY HENRY ARTHUR
Contrary to the original plan of diving the lower courts into grades, the Attorney General, in exercising the power conferred on her by section 47 of the Courts Act, Act 459, has signed into motion L I 2429.
The regulation seeks to expand the monetary jurisdiction of the District and Circuit courts and thereby revoking L I 2211 of 2014
Hitherto this regulation, the monetary jurisdiction of the Districts and Circuit Courts stood 20K and 50K Ghana cedis respectively.
However, this LI 2429 has increased the jurisdiction of these courts in respect of claims with stated value to 500k and 2million Ghana cedis respectively.
The criminal jurisdiction, of course, remains the same except in some cases of stealing where the judge may want to make an order for restitution. But in all personal actions under contract, tort, recovery of liquidated sum of money, land litigation, letters of administration and probate, the monetary jurisdiction will be regulated by LI 2429.
The effect of this is in 2 folds;
- The High court shall somewhat remain an appeals court in respect of these matters.
- There will be increased of the number of cases (contentious and non-contentious) for both the circuit and the district court.
Even though the circuit courts operate with CI 47 there is flexibility of its application because of the issue of self-representation.
The district court, which operates the CI 59 rules, on the hand, allows for non-formal, non-strict, speedy, summary and flexible filing and trial
Again, the CI 86 which determines the fees and charges of filing and documentation charges more favourably in doing business in the district court. For instance, whilst one pays 3% of the amount quoted in the application for grant of Letters of Administration, a range of amount is paid in the district court for the same application.
These above reasons will be the reasons why many litigants and lawyers will now prefer the district courts to the the other courts.
The problem is not the fact that the lower courts will now be inundated with cases which are complex or involve legal representation because of the amount of money involved, but the fact that there seems to be lack of requisite capacity in terms of personnel, space, and logistics etc.to meet this new overload.
Most district courts are still manned by Career magistrates whose application of the law in civil litigation is questionable. Now that they will be faced with complex or contentious cases, are we to expect more invocations of the appeal jurisdiction?
The existence of the law is one thing, the effective running of the law is another. The combination of the these two facilitates effective administration of justice.
There should be a proportional building of administrative capacity in the areas mentioned above to come into terms with the new reality.
By TONY HENRY ARTHUR