The Judiciary is the third arm of the State tasked with the responsibility of interpreting the laws of the country.
The Judiciary of The Gambia over the past years has been seriously and grossly underfunded to the extent that it cannot conduct meaningful renovation of its dilapidating infrastructures.
The past budget of the Judiciary was cut by the National Assembly of the Gambia by over D50 million, leaving the Judiciary starving for funds.
The Gambia still relies on foreign judges from the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Ghana despite the campaign for Gambianisation of the judicial bench as envisioned in the National Development Plan (NDP).
December 4th, 2021 is set for presidential election and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has carried out a fresh voter registration exercise throughout the country and has been concluded.
There have been a lot of complaints with regard to the voter registration and those complaints could only be addressed at the revising courts.
Recently, the Judiciary presented a supplementary budget to the National Assembly for the setting up of the revising courts, resource mobilization, appointments of new Gambia judges and other vital resources.
However, the National Assembly drastically reduced the supplementary budget of the Judiciary to D7.3 million only.
The question now being asked is whether the D7.3 million allocated to the Judiciary will be adequate to set up the revising courts throughout the seven (7) regions of the country.
It must be noted that the Revising Courts are special courts different from the normal courts which are tasked with hearing of complaints with voter registration and election matters.
The whole process of Revising Courts should last for not more than 60 days which means that before November, 2021, all complaints and appeals of voter registration should be held within 60 days but if the Judiciary is short of funds, the setting up of these Revising Courts in remote parts of The Gambia will be a challenge for the Judiciary.
The presiding magistrates in Revising Courts need vehicles and other resources and as of now, magistrates share vehicles which is not appropriate in a democratic society.
It should be noted that the Judiciary is not part of the Ministry of Justice and should not be equated to a government ministry but a co-equal arm of the Executive and the Legislature.
The independence of the Judiciary is sine qua none and for the rule of law to prevail in a democratic society, the Judiciary must have financial independence and autonomy.
The impact of the National Assembly drastically slashing the budget of the Judiciary will affect the public access to the Revising Courts in a timely manner as the resources are not coming.
It is the National Assembly that needs the Revising Courts more than the Judiciary because they are the ones most likely going to file complaints at the Revising Courts against any irregularities in the voter registration.
So the National Assembly, by slashing the supplementary budget, will seriously undermine the operation and functioning of the Revising Courts and it is like shooting oneself in the foot.
Views expressed in this article are the
author’s own and do not necessarily
reflect the editorial policy of The Standard.