By Yankuba Jallow
The Supreme Court on Thursday 23 November 2017 sent back the questions of interpretation of the Constitution to the High Court for their proper formulation. The High Court had referred certain sections of the Constitution that were in contention in the ongoing case involving the Gambia Bar Association (GBA) and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) so that the Supreme Court would interpret them.
When the case was called before the Justices of the Supreme Court, Lawyers Yassin Senghor, Hawa Sisay Sabally and Abdoulie Sissoho all appeared for the GBA whilst Lawyer Ida Drammeh appeared for the JSC and Binga D. appeared for the Attorney General.
Lawyer Ida Drammeh told the Court that she was served the GBA’s Statement of case. She said the first JSC filed a motion dated 9thNovember 2017, adding that they lack facts. The Justices intervened and told her that the matter before the court is for interpretation.
This prompted Lawyer Yassin Senghor to rise and tell the Court that the matter before the court is an issue of interpretation of certain provisions of the Constitution and argued that the matter is not an appeal case. She further argued that the only thing the Court should deal with is to interpret sections 138, 145 and 229 of the Constitution.
Counsel Senghor, still on her contention submitted that the questions that are before the Supreme Court for determination are those raised in response to Lawyer Ida Drammeh contention that the High Court lacks jurisdiction to interpret the provisions of the Constitution. She said the questions were not prepared by her, but the High Court Judge, Aminata Ceesay-Saho in her verdict that she sent to the Supreme Court for determination.
The Court also after looking at the questions prepared by Justice Aminata Ceesay-Saho told the two parties (GBA and JSC) that the questions were not properly formulated. The Court then held that given the way the questions are framed, not only issues of interpretation are mentioned but to an extent, if all the issues mentioned are dealt with, then there will be no need to refer the matter back to the High Court.
Lawyer Yassin Senghor suggested to the Court that if the Supreme Court is of with the view that the matter before it is not a matter for interpretation only but determination, then the file can be sent back to the High Court to reformulate the questions.
Lawyer Ida Drammeh on the other hand, submitted that since issues of determination are in the questions from the High Court and the High Court on page 163 of its judgment held that it lacks jurisdiction to determine such, then the matter at the High Court should be struck out and the Bar should then file a new suit at the Supreme Court observing all procedures for instituting suits at the Court.
The Court in its ruling held that it does not understand what the High Court means in its verdict on page 163 that it lacks jurisdiction. The Court therefore, sent back the verdict of the High Court for proper formulation of the questions because the questions have gone beyond interpretation.
At the High Court, The Gambia Bar Association had filed a motion challenging the appointments of Justices Edward E Ogar, Mathias O Agboola, Simeon Abi and Martins U Okoi; Judges whom they say are incompetent and whose appointments are not in line with the 1997 Constitution.
This was contested by the JSC at the High Court and the two parties in this matter argued on the jurisdiction of the High Court to hear the matter and give orders of certiorari. They debated, making references to the Constitution, motivating the trial judge to refer the matter to the Supreme Court for interpretation.