A Court of Appeal Judge, Justice Sir Dennis Adjei, has admonished traditional leaders practicing customary arbitration to desist from coercing disputing parties to submit to adjudication before them.
“Don’t force parties to appear before you,” he said, adding that customary arbitration is a voluntary process.
He reminded them that customary arbitration under the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Act 2010, Act 798 remains voluntary, and therefore forcing people to appear contravenes the law.
In a presentation on Rules of Natural Justice at a three-day training session in Accra on Mediation and Arbitration Procedures, organised by the National Labour Commission for its listed Mediators and Arbitrators, Justice Adjei asked customary arbitrators to allow disputants to exercise party autonomy which grants parties the right to choose their arbitrators.
According to him some chiefs use the “powers” of their palaces to force parties to appear before them for adjudication.
Often, he said parties are unable to refuse the forced invitations because they are subjects of these chiefs.
But, he cautioned that such actions provide good grounds for the challenge of awards, as well as the setting aside of customary arbitration awards by the courts.
“Decisions from such proceedings are quashed by the courts,” he said.
Justice Adjei, therefore, advised customary arbitrators and ADR practitioners in general, to strictly observe the rules of natural justice that demands fair hearing and impartiality.
“Procedure is very critical, and fair hearing is built on procedural propriety,” he noted, adding that any impropriety in procedure can lead to the setting aside of a mediation settlement or arbitration award by the High Court.
By Edmund Mingle/ adrdaily.com