Asante was annexed with the state of Crown Colony after the final conquest of the territory in 1901, by an order in Council of September 26, 1901 . The Asante Administration Order in Council came into force on January 1, 1902 . The first Ordinance was the Asante Administration Ordinance provided for the establishment in Asante the following Courts:
Chief Commissioner's Court
This was court of record with jurisdiction throughout Asante . The extent of the Chief Commissioner's jurisdiction was equivalent to that of a Divisional Court except in divorce and matrimonial cases. In the Civil and Criminal matters, the Court was to be guided by the law in force in the Gold Coast Colony. The procedure so far as practicable was to be the same as the procedure in the Supreme Court of the Gold Coast Colony. Section 10 of the Ordinance stipulated that in no cause or matter, civil or criminal, should the engagement of a barrister or solicitor be allowed.
/ By section 19, no appeal lay from the decision of the Chief Commissioner in any criminal matter.
3.2 District Commissioner's Court
This court was established in each district. In civil cases where the sum involved amounted to £100, appeals lay to the Chief Commissioner's court and thence to the Supreme Court of the Colony. No appeal lay from the decision of either Court in any criminal case.
3.3 Native Tribunals
All the principal Chiefs in Asante had their own native tribunals. The clan chiefs of Kumasi- Krontire, Akwamu, Adonten, Benkum, Oyoko, Gyaase and Kyidom had their own native tribunals.
3.4 Kumasihene's Native Tribunal
The Kumasihene's Native Tribunal was established in 1926 when Nana Agyeman Prempeh I was re-installed as Kumasihene by the British Colonial Administration in Kumasi two years after he had returned from exile in the Seychelles as Kumasihene. The jurisdiction of his tribunal was restricted to the Kumasi traditional area. It did not include different traditional areas in the other parts of Asante .
Kumasihene's Native Tribunal became a court of record and all proceedings and transactions of the court were recorded. Kumasihene was the president of the tribunal and the membership were drawn from the Chiefs within the Kumasi state. Appeals from the Kumasihene's Tribunal went to the Kumasi District Commissioner's Court. Appeal from the District Commissioner's Court also went to the Ashanti Chief Commissioner's Court.
3.5 Records of Kumasihene's Native Tribunal and Asantehene's Native Courts
The records of the Kumasihene's Native Tribunal from 1926 to 1935 during the reigns of Nana Agyeman Prempeh I and Nana Osei Agyeman Prempeh II are preserved at the Manhyia Archives. The records of Asantehene's Native Courts Grade A, B, C and D are also preserved at the Manhyia Archives. The records cover the period from 1935 to 1960 when the native courts were abolished and were replaced by local courts.
The records consist of court records books and dockets. The proceedings of the courts are recorded in the court record books while the dockets contain the transactions involved in the administration of individual cases. Some of these courts records books have been indexed and therefore facilitate the use of the record books for research.
The lists of the court records give the names of the plaintiffs and defendants and the description of the claim or issue involved in each individual cases and this also facilitate their access.
The lists have been arranged in chronological order with exception of few ones. In the list, reference code of the records are given, the description of the records are shown and the covering dates of the records have been also captured. All these facilitate the use of the records.
Researchers of the court records are advised to consult the lists of the court dockets first before consulting the lists of the record books. The dockets give detailed information that will help the researcher to find his or her information on particular court cases.
3.6 Records of the Kumasi Clan Chiefs Tribunal and Native Courts
The Kumasi Clan Chief's Tribunal/Native Courts were Krontire, Akwamu, Oyoko, Adonten, Benkum, Gyaase and Kyidom and Ankobia.
These native courts were presided over by the respective clan leaders. The proceedings of these courts were recorded. They are preserved at the Manhyia Archives and are available for inspection at the Archives.
When the Native Courts were replaced by the local Courts Act No. 23 of the 1958 which was replaced by the Court Act (C. A.9) of 1960, a provision was made under Section 130 for any appeal proceedings in any cause or matter which were immediately prior to the establishment of a local court under the Act pending before any Court from a Native Court were to be continued.
The Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana directed that all causes and matter pending on appeal before any Native Court immediately prior to 1st July, 1960 should be prosecuted and continued in accordance with Section 125 of the said Courts Act with appropriate District Court. In land and succession cases all appeals pending, were to be prosecuted and continued in so far as those cases in which the subject matter of the cases did not exceed the value £100 must be tried at the appropriate circuit courts. It was further directed that cases in which the subject matter exceeded the value of £100 was to be continued and persecuted in the High Court.
In view of this, searchers are advised that cases which were not concluded at the Asantehehene's Native Courts A, B, C and D should be checked from the records of the appropriate Local Courts, District Courts, Circuit Court and High Court.
3.7 Records of Asantehene's Customary Arbitration Court
Under the Native Tribunal and Native Court Ordinances and subsequent Chieftaincy laws, the power of any chief including the Asantehene to act extra-judiciary as an arbitrator under customary law in any dispute in respect of which the parties thereto consent to his so acting was preserved. As a result of this, some cases have been adjudicated under arbitration.
The proceedings of such arbitration cases have been recorded from 1926 to date and they are usually referred to as 'palaver books'.
There are two distinct arbitration courts of the Asantehene- they are the Kumasi Traditional Council Arbitration Court and the Asanteman Arbitration Courts.
3.8 Kumasi Traditional Council Arbitration Court
When the Native Courts of Asantehene were replaced by the Local Courts established under Local Courts Act 1958 (No. 25) which was replaced by the Courts (C.A. 9) Act of 1960, the Asantehene power to act extra-judicially as arbitrator under the customary law was preserved. The Kumasi Traditional Council Arbitration is presided by the Asantehene or his representative.
The membership of this court is made up of the Kumasi divisional chiefs. The proceedings of this arbitration courts are recorded. They are available for inspection at the Manhyia Archives.
3.9 The Asanteman Arbitration Court Records
The Asanteman Arbitration Court is presided by the Asantehene or his representative. The membership of the Court is made up of all the paramount Chiefs who owe allegiance to Asantehene. The proceedings of this court are recorded and are available for inspection at the archives.
3.10 Note: Judicial Committee and other Court Records
It should be noted by our clients that the records of the Kumasi Traditional Council Judicial Committee and the records of the Ashanti Regional House of Chiefs Judicial Committee are not in the custody of the Manhyia Archives and therefore they are not available for inspection at the Archives.
Searchers who want to inspect the records should contact the respective Registrars who are the custodians of these records.
The records of the Ashanti Chief Commissioner's Courts and that of the Kumasi District Commissioners are available at the Public Records and Archives Administration Department, Kumasi .
The records of the former Asantehene's Court 'A' are available for inspection at the Public Records and Archives Administration Department, Kumasi .
3.11 Courts Records in the Manhyia Archives
The following are the Courts which records are available at the Manhyia Archives for consultation:
- Kumasihene's Native Tribunal
- Asantehene's Native Court A 1
- Asantehene's Native Court A (MAG 9/A2)
- Asantehene'a Native Court B 2 (MAG 10)
- Asantehene's Native Court B 3 (MAG 10/3)
- Asantehene's Native Court B 4 (MAG 10/4)
- Asantehene's Native Court B 5 (MAG 10/5)
- Asantehene's Native Court C (MAG 11)
- Asantehene's Native Court D (Appam) (MAG 12)
- Krontire Native Court
- Akwamu Native Court
- Kyidom Native Court
- Ankobia Native Court
- Gyaase Native Court
- Oyoko Native Court
- Benkum Native Court
- Adonten Native Court
- Kumasi Traditional Council Arbitration Court
- Ashanti Confederacy/Asanteman Council Arbitration Court
The searcher is advised to consult " The Holdings of Manhyia Archives (Current List) for more detailed information on the classification of the above-name courts records. The Lists of these court records are available in the reading room for consultation.
Ekow Daniels: The Common Law In West Africa . London , Butterworth 1964,
Sir Francis Fuller in his book 'A Vanished Dynasty' had this to say on this section of the rule: "By wise decree, lawyers cannot plead in the Dependency, for such a litigious people would fight to the bitter end and ruin themselves in payment of exorbitant fees" Fuller: A Vanished Dynasty , p. 221.