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The Supreme Court has declared that the High Court can interrogate the revocation of licences of banks and specialised deposit-taking institutions (SDI) by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) especially with regard to alleged breaches of fundamental human rights.

The court held that Section 141 of the Banks and  SDI Act, 2016 (Act 930) which stipulates arbitration as the means of seeking redress for persons aggrieved by the BoG’s revocation of their licences does not oust the jurisdiction of the High Court to also determine the propriety of the revocation.

A five-member panel of the apex court unanimously made the decision on Wednesday [July 19] when it reversed a ruling by the Court of Appeal which had maintained that an arbitration tribunal and not the High Court was the proper forum for seeking redress against a revocation of a licence by the BoG.

Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, founder of GN Bank/Savings and his counsel Justice Srem Sai leaving the court premises after the ruling

Successful appeal

The highest court of the land gave the decision after it upheld an appeal by Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, the Founder of the defunct GN Savings and Loans, who is challenging the revocation of GN’s licence by the BoG in 2019.

Dr Nduom and two entities connected to him dragged the BoG to the High Court with a human rights application arguing that the revocation of the licence was unfair, unreasonable and therefore against their rights to administrative justice as enshrined under Article 23 of the 1992 Constitution.

The BoG raised a preliminary legal objection challenging the jurisdiction of the High Court on the basis that per Section 141 of Act 930, the proper forum for seeking redress against a revocation of a licence by the central bank was arbitration tribunal and not the High Court.

The High Court dismissed the objection, prompting the BoG to file an appeal at the Court of Appeal.

On June 2, 2022, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, unanimously upheld the appeal by the BoG and held that the High Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the action on the basis that Section 141 of Act 930 had categorically provided arbitration as the means of seeking redress.

The court therefore halted the suit at the High Court and referred the dispute to the Ghana Arbitration Centre.

Dissatisfied, Dr Nduom appealed the Court of Appeal’s decision at the Supreme Court which was successful.

Supreme Court’s decision 

Delivering the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court, Justice Gabriel Pwamang stated that although Section 141 of Act 930 mentioned arbitration as the means of seeking redress against the revocation of a licence by the BoG, there was no explicit provision barring the courts from also delving into the same issue.

“A statute may create only one exclusive forum for redress when there is an express ouster of jurisdiction of other forums but this is not the case with Act 930,” Justice Pwamang held.

Justice Pwamang held that even if Act 930 ousted a court’s jurisdiction in cases related to revocation of licence by the BoG, it would be unconstitutional for Act 930 to prevent the High Court from hearing an alleged human right violation in relation to the revocation of licence.

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