By Fatou Sowe
The Supreme Court of The Gambia presided over by a panel of five judges has delivered judgment in the suit instituted by Ousainou ANM Darboe challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Public Order Act and Section 69 of the Criminal Code.
In a judgment read by Chief Justice Hassan Jallow, the suit was said to have failed entirely and dismissed accordingly as the court found the challenged sections consistent with the Constitution of The Gambia.
Readers would recall that the Ousainou Darboe who is the leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and currently the Foreign Affairs minister was last year prosecuted alongside several of his party militants on charges related to unlawful assembly.
During the trial, Darboe and others filed a suit before the Supreme Court seeking for the said court to determine the constitutionality of the charges of unlawful assembly, riot, holding a procession without a permit and disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful procession. They further sought for the court to declare these laws null and void and accordingly strike them out of the statutes for their inconsistency with the Constitution.
After evaluating the issues formulated by the plaintiffs in their case who claimed that the exercise of a right given under Section 25 of the Constitution should not be subjected to the approval of the Inspector General of Police as provided in Section 5 of the Public Order Act, the Chief Justice said: “The restrictions on the exercise of a right is not an abolition of that right.”
He said the power of the IGP to issue licence or deny same does not have any effect on the constitutionality and validity of Section 5, adding that the requirement for a licence is not inconsistent with the Constitution as claimed by the plaintiffs.
On the challenge of Section 69 of the Criminal Code, the court said that the wrongful use of the law in a charge does not amount to unconstitutionality. Accordingly, the court said the claims of the plaintiffs were dismissed in their entirety.
It was agreed by the parties that the case of Lamin Sonko and others (the April 14 protesters) shall abide by the judgment of the case of Ousainou Darboe and same was adopted by the court.