By Landing Ceesay
The Chief Justice of the Republic of the Gambia, Hon. Hassan B. Jallow said the Judiciary has registered 11,568 cases in 2022.
He disclosed those numbers while speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2023 Legal Year, where he also re-iterates that fair, impartial, and timely delivery of justice underpins the mission of the judiciary.
“The mission of the judiciary remains constant i.e. to ensure a fair impartial and timely delivery of quality justice by a competent, motivated, and committed staff. So does its core activity to adjudicate disputes, and hear and determine cases fairly and expeditiously without unreasonable delay. But the size of this workload is constantly on the rise.
“In the year 2022, a total number of 11,568 new cases were filed across all the courts from the Supreme Court to the Subordinate Courts â€“ the magistrates, Cadi courts children Courts as well as the Specialized tribunals. This represents a significant increase of 30% on the 8882 cases for the year 2021. In 2022 the courts were able to dispose of a total of 6,800 cases representing 58% of the workload and an increase of 1,978 on the total of 4822 cases disposed of in 2021,” he said.
The Chief Justice said they have observed that the majority of the case workload of the courts relates to civil matters, a significant portion of them being land disputes from the West Coast Region (WCR).
Chief Justice Jallow said some of the land disputes involve communities, some emanating from the alleged activities of estate agents.
Hon. Jallow said land is undoubtedly a very precious and scarce resource everywhere, especially in The Gambia.
He said Unresolved land disputes can have an impact on communal peace and stability.
The Chief Justice further stated that the Speedy resolution of land disputes is essential, as is the speedy and fair resolution of commercial disputes for the economy.
“Hence the need for the State to establish a well-resourced Land and /commercial Disputes Court as envisaged by the Judiciary Strategic Plan. This should be accompanied by the review and reform of the legal sector relating to the land to provide for a more efficient and effective system of land administration. Of particular concern are the activities of some estate agents with many litigants being alleged victims of such agents,” he said.
Talking about the activities of the estate agents in the land business, and their alleged activities in the land disputes, Chief Justice said the estate agency sector remains unregulated.
He said there is an urgent need for the enactment of laws that regulate the activities of estate agents including their registration, qualification, supervision, and discipline.
The emergence of Civil cases before the courts continues to rise, and the Chief Justice said litigation in civil matters should be a last resort.
The Chief Justice said the courts should only be called upon to settle civil disputes which the parties are unable to resolve. Thus, serious efforts for out-of-court settlement should be deployed by parties to a dispute. Additionally, it does not appear to be the case in many matters currently before the courts.
“Accordingly the Rules Committee presided over by the Chief Justice and comprising the Attorney General and the President of The Gambia Bar Association has adopted an amendment to the Rules of the High Court which now make such efforts at out-of-court settlement mandatory and a condition precedent to the hearing of any civil matter. A party instituting civil proceedings is required to provide certification of such efforts and their outcome to the court,” he said.
The Chief Justice said the amendment to the Rules will be published and will come into force shortly.
The veteran adjudicator said to strengthen the court-connected ADR System, the USAID through the ABA as well as the Weinstein Foundation based in California USA will be providing training for a corps of mediators, arbitrators, and conciliators to support the efforts of out-of-court settlements.
“I appeal to all counsel and would be litigants to heed these new rules and to comply with them. It will save them, indeed save all of us, much time and resources. Time and resources best devoted to necessary, unavoidable litigation,” he said.
The official opening ceremony of the 2023 Legal Year was held at the High Court of the Gambia Complex in Banjul.
The ceremony was presided over by the President of the Republic of Gambia, His Excellency Adama Barrow.