, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 1 – The Task Force on Judicial Reforms has presented a number of recommendations which if adopted will see the Judiciary allocated a minimum of 2.5 percent of the national budget to bolster its independence.
The Task Force which was appointed last year as part of Agenda IV items under the National Accord has also proposed the restructuring of the Judicial Service Commission to include other stakeholders like the Law Society and the members of the public ‘as a guarantee of judicial independence, integrity and performance.’
“The annual budgetary allocation to the Judiciary be augmented to a minimum of 2.5 percent of the national budget,” the chairman of the Task Force Justice William Ouko said.
The team also called for competitive appointment of all judges, setting up of a Complaints Commission, and immediate filling up of vacant positions in the judiciary to ease a backlog of cases.
As a measure to speed up administration of justice, the Task Force has recommended 24-hour duty courts with judges and magistrates who would be on call designed to deal with urgent matters.
“To ensure speedy administration of justice, small claims courts and Courts of Petty Sessions be established. Courts stations and Mobile Courts be established in marginalised areas and regions that have no access to courts,” the report recommends.
The Taskforce has also recommended setting up of an independent tribunal to vet current judges and magistrates as a means of restoring public confidence in the judiciary. The Judiciary has been under constant criticism from the Kenyan public, politicians and foreign mission who feel that the institution is the face of impunity, corruption and incompetence.
There have been calls for the overhaul of the entire institution with some people suggesting that all judges and magistrates be set packing and those who feel that their conduct is above reproach re-apply afresh. One year after the enactment of the Proposed Constitution, Parliament will enact legislation establishing mechanisms and procedures for vetting judges and magistrates who are currently in office.
The Judiciary has also been blamed for the 2008 post election violence for failing to deal with cases of impunity, corruption and past abuses.
In the report, the Task Force is also recommending regular inspection of judicial systems through a division to be called Inspectorate Unit to address judicial or corruption and ensure integrity.
“Separate Judicial Service Codes of Conduct for judges, other judicial officers and staff be developed,” the team recommends.
To ensure access to justice, the Task Force has recommended: “The development and implementation of a policy and legislative framework for legal aid be speeded up. Judicial officers would be required to ensure litigants especially children, vulnerable groups, victims of sexual offences and those without a counsel are accorded a fair hearing within a reasonable time.”
Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo said the government would implement the recommendations once they are factored in the Budget.