Gambia: Should the Legislature Not Halt the Swearing of the Nominee Before the Finality of the Supreme Court Case?

by Simon Sabally

Its been rumored that the person nominated by the President to replace Kumba Jaiteh in the National Assembly will be sworn in on Monday 18/03/19. Although the application to stop his swearing until the substantive suit on the declaration of the exercise of the power of the president to revoke the nomination of Kumba Jaiteh is slated to be heard on Thursday. If the application is heard and ruled on Thursday in favor of the applicant, then the defendants will be prohibited to conduct the swearing. But, if the application is refused, then the defendants will not be stopped to conduct the swearing as there is no law that prevents an action/activity from continuing or happening when a suit for declaration of that action/activity is pending before the supreme, excepts matters before other courts that have been referred for interpretation to the Supreme Court.

Section 127(1)(a) gives the Supreme Court original jurisdiction to hear “interpretation or enforcement of any provision of this Constitution other than any provision of sections 18 to 33 or section 36 (5) ( which relate to fundamental rights and freedoms)”. Subsection (2) mandates courts to stay proceedings in any matter “where any question referred to in paragraphs (a), (b) or (d) of subsection (1) arises in any proceedings in any other court.” The intendment here is for the decision/ruling to be considered in the case before the referral court; to provide direction on the matter referred; and puts a finality to the joined issue.

As mentioned, I would assume that the framers intended a general application of the principle of staying proceedings when the Supreme Court is seized with the referred constitutional issue. Although, s. 127(2) and the Supreme Court Act did not cater for the suspension of an activity when the Supreme Court is seized with an issue which emanated from another avenue other than the courts, I believe the principle of finality of Supreme Court decisions in all matters that are before it for interpretation and enforcement come under s. 127(2). If the Supreme Court refused the application to restrain the defendants from swearing in the nominee and he is sworn on Monday, will he not be prejudiced and affected in many ways when the decision in the substantive suit fall in favor of Kumba Jaiteh. Such situations are what s. 127(1) anticipates to avoid.

I hope that S. 127(2) will be amended to capture the staying of activity or decision in any matter in which clarity on it is sought before the Supreme Court.

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