The enhanced monetary value jurisdiction of the District and Circuit Courts in Ghana: How burdensome; how effective?

Introduction

What a month December, 2020 was! Being an election month in an election year in Ghana, it was expectedly a very busy one. The 7th December, 2020 national parliamentary and presidential elections were like none other we have experienced in the Fourth Republic. Parliamentary seats were shared equally between the incumbent NPP and opposition NDC; 137 seats apiece, and one independent seat. There were snippets of rumours that the NDC party was contemplating legal action to challenge the results of the presidential elections and various commentaries captured the airwaves as to the wisdom or otherwise of such a move. In the event, the petition was filed. As at the date of this writing, the petition is still pending at the Supreme Court. The best of luck to all parties. Also in December, 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic was not letting up at all. Infection and death rates were rising world-wide and the race for a vaccine was progressing in earnest. Defeated US President, Donald Trump, was still holding on to dear power by his fingernails, obstinately clinging on despite reportedly losing to President Joe Biden in the presidential elections held in November.

As the above events unfolded and captured our collective attention, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice was very much at work. The Honourable Minister was working feverishly to enhance the jurisdiction of the Circuit and District Courts with regards to the monetary value of claims to be filed in those courts.


The Courts Regulations, 2020 (L.I 2429)

On 16th December, 2020, the Courts Regulations, 2020 (L.I 2429) (hereafter called “the Regulations”) came into force. The purpose of the Regulations is to expand the jurisdiction of the lower courts (Circuit and District Courts) in respect of personal claims made in court for specified amounts. Under the Regulations, all cases that involve personal claims of up to GH₵500,000 (five hundred thousand Ghana cedis) must be filed at the District Court and all personal claims from GH₵500,000 up to GH₵2,000,000 (two million Ghana cedis) must be filed at the Circuit Court. These limits apply to cases arising under contracts, torts and recovery of debt. Applications for grant of probate or letters of administration and succession to property of a death person with stated monetary values are also covered by the Regulations.


The jurisdiction of the District and Circuit Courts before the Regulations (L.I 2429).

When the Fourth Republic was ushered in on 7th January, 1993, one of the early laws passed under the 1992 Constitution was the Courts Act, 1993. The Courts Act established the lower courts and provided for their composition and jurisdiction, among other things. 

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