Gambia Bar case: High Court cannot interpret the Constitution • Ida Drammeh

By Yankuba Jallow

Lawyer Ida Drammeh yesterday told the high court in Banjul that the high court has no jurisdiction to interpret the Constitution.

She made this assertion in the case involving The Gambia Bar Association and the Judicial Service Commission.

Counsel for the first defendant (the Judicial Service Commission) was arguing on points of law in support of its preliminary objection to the case of the Gambia Bar.

The argument of the defence counsel is that the Bar is asking the court to do what it is not competent to do, that is, to revoke the appointment of some judges because it is unconstitutional.

She argues that the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction for the interpretation and enforcement of the constitution and the High Court has no Jurisdiction to deal with such cases as stated in Section 127. She added that this is apart from provisions in Sections 18 to 33 and 36(5) of the Constitution which deals with fundamental rights.

She held that where a clear and unambiguous language is been used the Constitution must be granted its clear meaning. She submitted that the court lacks jurisdiction to interpret sections 138, 145 and 229 of the Constitution which is the matter before the court.

“The Court has no Constitutional power to interpret or enforce sections 138, 145 and 229,” she asserted. She also said the court is bound by law to abide by the provisions of the Constitution. “The notice of motion invites the court to interpret and enforce provisions of the Constitution which it lacks jurisdiction to do,” she said.

She contended that the supervisory jurisdiction of the high court is for the lower courts and the lower courts are adjudicating authorities. Referring to sections 145, 147 and 148 she argued that the Judicial Service Commission is not an adjudicating authority and cannot therefore be subjected to the supervisory role of the high court.

She reiterated that section 127(2) of the Constitution is absolutely clear as to what is to happen where the proceedings are before the court.

In Interpretation of sections 138, 145 and 229 of the Constitution the court shall stay its proceedings and refer to the Supreme Court for its determination. At this juncture, the presiding Judge adjourned the matter till Thursday 4 May 2017 from 3 – 4 pm.