Judges vetting board takes shape

December 9, 2011 2:49 pm

, NAIROB, Kenya, Dec 9 – Chief Justice Willy Mutunga on Friday presided over the swearing in ceremony of Reuben Chirchir as the new Chief Executive Officer of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board.

Among those who witnessed the brief swearing in ceremony was the Board’s Chairman Sharad Rao, who said that his team would work around the clock to ensure Kenyans got credible Judges in the Appeals Court as well as the High Court.

Rao also assured those who had been shortlisted that the vetting process, which is scheduled to begin mid January next year, would not be a political man hunt.

He said that his team would ensure that it obeyed the rules of natural justice to ensure that the process was not counterproductive.

“The process that we are going through is not like the earlier one which was criticised. If you remember what they called the radical surgery, by Justice Ringera (Aaron), where the judges were denied an opportunity to respond to any adverse criticism against them,” said Rao.

When President Mwai Kibaki took office in 2002 he promised to undertake reforms in the Judiciary and Ringera was tasked with looking into allegations that some members of the Judiciary were corrupt.

In 2003 Ringera released a report highlighting gross misconduct by certain judges. Some of them decided to be investigated before resuming their duties while others opted to resign.

The process, which was largely back lashed, failed to achieve the reforms that had been envisioned.

Rao further called on Kenyans to submit any concerns they might have on those short listed for their suitability into the two Courts before the timelines expired. He however cautioned Kenyans against submitting complaints that were not credible.

“Once we get the complaints, we will analyse them, sort them out, summarise them and give that particular Judge or Magistrate sufficient notice to answer to the criticisms,” he explained.

He also warned Kenyans against submitting their concerns late noting that those on candidates shortlisted for positions into the Court of Appeal must be handed in by December 19 while those on individuals seeking posts into the High Court must be forwarded by January 31 next year.

Rao further observed that the vetting process would be private unless a particular Judge decided to have it in public.

“We are conscious that the public wants to know what is happening and they don’t want to feel like things are being done behind closed doors so we will keep the public informed through the media and direct town hall meetings,” he revealed.

He also called on the legal and public fraternity to cooperate with each other during the vetting process.

Only 28 Kenyans applied for positions into the Court of Appeal before 26 were short-listed out of whom 15 were female.

Paul Kihara, Kalpana Rawal, Jamila Mohammed, Muga Apondi, Consolata Wanjiku Ngondi and Violet Mavisi are some of the names that appear on the list of shortlisted applicants.

Interestingly some of the names on the list had already unsuccessfully applied for other top constitutional offices including Rawal and Ngondi.

Mavisi had on the other hand been nominated as Chairperson of the National Gender and Equality Commission but her name was turned down.


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