Overview Of Civil Proceedings In High Court Of Ghana
The High Court in Ghana is the only court that has jurisdiction in all matters, particularly, civil proceedings in Ghana. Any civil matter notwithstanding the quantum or complexity involved can be initiated at the High Court of Ghana. Civil proceedings are normally actions emanating from an individual or a company against another person, state or an organization for enforcement of right or for recovery of money or debt etc.
The rules that regulate the proceedings at the High Court is the 'High Court (Civil Procedure Rule) Rules 2004 (C.I. 47)'. This rule provides for all the necessary steps that are required to conduct a matter at the High Court of Ghana.
Under the rules a person that commences a civil proceedings is described as "Plaintiff" and the opposing party is described as the "Defendant".
ISSUANCE OF WRIT AND STATEMENT OF CLAIM
Civil proceedings at the High Court is commenced by the issuance or filing of a Writ of Summon. The writ of summon should indicate nature of claim, relief or remedy sought in the action.
At the time of filing the Writ of Summon, the Plaintiff must accompany it with Statement of Claim. The Statement of Claim is the document upon which the Plaintiff indicated or tells their story in a summary form. The Writ of Summon and Statement of Claim are prepared by the Plaintiff. It must be filed at the registry of the High Court and Served on the Defendant.
FILING OF APPEARANCE BY THE DEFENDANT
Upon the service of the Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim on the Defendant, the Defendant is under obligation to file a process called "Appearance" within Eight (8) days from the date the process was served on them. The Appearance can be filed by the Defendant personally or by his/her appointed lawyer.
If the Defendant fails to file appearance within the time stipulated, upon application by the Plaintiff, judgment may be entered against the Defendant.
FILING OF DEFENCE OR DEFENCE AND COUNTERCLAIM
After filing of Appearance, the Defendant is under the obligation to file a response to the Plaintiff claim by a document called "Statement of Defence" or "Statement of Defence and Counterclaim" with fourteen (14) days from the date of filing of the Appearance.
The Statement of Defence contains the response of the Defendant to the Plaintiff claim. If the Defendant fails to file it within the stipulated time, upon the application of the Plaintiff, the court may enter judgement for the Plaintiff.
REPLY TO DEFENCE OR DEFENCE AND COUNTERCLAIM
Upon service of Defence or Defence and Counterclaim, the Plaintiff may file a reply to the Defence with Seven (7) days from the date of the service of the Defence. However, if the Defendant filed a Defence and Counterclaim, the Plaintiff is under obligation to file a response to the counterclaim. If the Plaintiff fails to file a response, upon application of the Defendant the court may enter judgment on the reliefs claimed in the counterclaim against the Plaintiff.
APPLICATION FOR DIRECTIONS
When all the above documents have been filed, within one month the Plaintiff has to file a document in court called "Application for directions" and serve copies on the parties involved.
The purpose of the Application for Direction is for the parties to appear before a court for the court to give further direction on how the action will be conducted. Upon filing of the Application of Direction and serving it on the parties, the matter will be assigned to a court for the court to give further directions on the matter.
Typically the court will direct parties to file their witness statement and other documents they intend to rely on. Witness Statements has replaced examination in chief, where witness will mount the witness box to tell their stories.
Therefore, at this stage the court will normally direct parties to file all the respective witness statements of witnesses they intend to rely on. Thereafter the court will adjourn it for case management conference.
CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
At this stage the court will ascertain whether all the parties have complied with the court's order. If the court is satisfied that the parties have filed their respective witness statements and all the processes, the court will then fix a date for trial.
At the trial stage, evidence will be taken from the parties. The Plaintiff or it witnesses will first mount the witness box. The Plaintiff or it witnesses will then tender their witness statement for adoption by the court. After adoption of the witness statement, the opposing counsel or the defendant will then have the opportunity to cross examine the Plaintiff or it witnesses.
When the Plaintiff or it witnesses are exhausted the Plaintiff will end or close their case. Thereafter the Defendant and its witnesses will take their turn in the witness box to tender their respective witness statements. Similarly, upon tendering of their witness statement, the Defendant or their witnesses will then be cross examined.
When the trial ends, the court will direct the parties to file their respective written submission to support their case and adjourn it for the parties to come back for a date for judgement. The court will then go ahead to give judgement on the date fixed for the judgement to end the case.
APPEAL AND EXECUTION
After judgement, the dissatisfied party has the option to either Appeal against the decision of the court or comply with the decision of the court.
If the dissatisfied party does not take immediate steps to either Appeal against the decision of the court or comply with the orders of the court, the Successful party can take legal steps within the rules to enforce the orders of the court on the unsuccessful party.
The above is a useful guide in respect of civil proceedings in Ghana. An individual can conduct a matter at the High Court without a lawyer, however, due to the complexity of the court proceedings it is always advisable to instruct a practicing lawyer to represent you in your civil proceedings.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.