Justice Clemence Honyenuga, Justice of the Supreme Court who is presiding over the COCOBOD trial has dismissed the application from Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni asking him to recuse himself the case over his comments.
Justice Honyernuga who is presiding over the case in which Dr Opuni, former Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limted are standing trial for causing financial loss have accused the judge of prejudging the case before the accused persons were asked to open their defence.
Ruling on the application for him to recuse himself, the judge said, “it is my candid option that the application was brought in bad faith and accordingly dismissed.”
The judge subsequently fixed June 18 for Opuni to open his defence.
Counsel for Dr Opuni, Samuel Codjoe while moving the motion said, the motion on notice was for the judge “to recuse yourself from further hearing of this matter on the grounds of breach of Article 19 2E and G of the constitution and also under the inherent jurisdiction of their court.”
According to him, “Our basis is that, we will not be given adequate time and facility for our defence and this is based on the fact that your lordship on the 7 day of May, 2021, stated that your primary duty was in the Supreme Court and this case had unduly delayed and was preventing you or interfering in your duties and therefore you wanted to complete it early.:
He argued that “… when our application for a submission of no case was dismissed and we asked for time to prepare our defence your lordship first gave us 7 days”
He said, “this is against the practice direction which is contained in the 2017-2020 Volume 1 Report of the Supreme Court Ghana Law Report.”
“We are saying that when therefore we requested for adequate time this court was void by this practice direction to give us adequate time but this was not done.”
“We also want to point out that this is a criminal matter and we have not caused any delay in the hearing and it is our submission that in so far as this court had indicated that it’s primary duty is at the Supreme Court and that this case is interfering with your duties it has become obvious that right under Article 19(2)(e)(g) would be breached.”
Counsel said, in the ruling on the submission of no case, the judge made final determinations which can only be made in the final judgement after the accused had been heard.
He argued that “this final determination we submit shows that your lordship has prejudged and predetermined the guilt of the first accused even before he mounts the box.
“It shows us that our guilt had already been determined even before we open our defence and that we will not get a fair trial therefore, we are praying that you recuse yourself,” he prayed.
Mrs Evelyn Keelson, a Chief State Attorney for prosecution opposed the application on grounds that, “the applicant has not disclosed any circumstances warranting this application calling in you to recuse yourself.”
According to her Article 19(1) of the Constitution mandates the court to conduct a criminal trial expeditiously.
“This is actually the first principle of fair trial in our Constitution and there is nothing wrong when a trial judge states that a trial ought to be conducted expeditiously.
She submitted that “the ruling on the submission of no case calling on the applicant to open his defence was given on 7 May, 2021. It was at the instance of the applicant that this court adjourned the case to 17 May 2021 to enable him open his defence – 10 days and that cannot be described as inadequate time.”
She said the Practice Direction that counsel quoted states that the court shall adjourn the case to enable the accused person adequate time and facility to put up his defence.
“It is our submission that between the 17 May 2021 and now is 24 days. We, therefore, state that there is no basis at all that the applicant has not been given adequate time to put up his defence”.