, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 22 – Court of Appeal judges David Maraga, Kalpana Rawal and Martha Koome survived the vetting process after they were found fit to serve in the Judiciary.
Justice Koome who was the first to opt for public vetting was declared fit to serve in the Judiciary after the vetting board members tied 4-4 when the decision was taken to vote.
“One member recused herself from the hearing and determination. In the circumstances, there being no clear majority in favour of either, the board agreed that the judge was entitled to continue to serve,” the board ruled.
Koome was accused of inability to understand, appreciate interpret and apply the law in a case of succession in a woman-to-woman marriage and specifically her failure to apply the legal requirements for valuation and verification of assets before a distribution order was made.
She also faced a complaint of being unfair by upholding an appeal against an order made in a magistrate’s court without hearing all the parties in the case and where the accused was a minor.
A section of the board felt that the judge’s good qualities far outweighed any deficiencies and there was no finding in any of the matters the judge had been manipulating the law to promote impunity.
The board was however unanimous in reminding her of the importance to provide sufficient documentation of each and every step taken in the process of giving practical and fair solutions.
“She should always be aware of the danger of undervaluing the importance of maintaining legal rigour,” the board ruled.
During her public vetting in May, Royal Media Services chairman SK Macharia presented a complaint over Koome’s handling of a land dispute involving his wife.
Justice Maraga, who also chose to be vetted in public, was declared fit to continue serving with the board failing to prove allegations of bribery against him while he served in Nakuru.
The board had been told that a political aspirant in Nakuru had been telling stories that he had brokered a deal with the judge for a favourable judgment.
No person testified as having seen him ask for or receive a bribe to hold in one case that provisions in the Valuation for Rating Act48 were unconstitutional, while ruling in another matter that the Nakuru City Council’s valuation roll was valid.
“The board finds no reason to doubt the judge’s integrity in handling these matters. There was no obvious conflict between the two decisions, nor was there any sign in either judgment of an approach to judging which could undermine public confidence in the judiciary,” the board determined.
During his public vetting, Justice Maraga stunned the board by insisting on swearing using the bible that he had never taken and would never take a bribe.
The second complaint against him was in a case where he reduced a murder charge to that of manslaughter and imposing a sentence of 10 years imprisonment – allegedly influenced by the tribe of the accused.
The board also held that the judge made a ‘confident, forceful and dignified impression’ during the vetting and that he was also positively appraised legal profession in the Rift Valley.
The Law Society of Kenya complimented the judge on his punctuality, the seriousness with which he approached cases, and his control of the courtroom.
Justice Kalpana Rawal, who is currently chairing the Commission of Inquiry into the helicopter crash that caused the death of Internal Security George Saitoti and five other Kenyans, was also allowed to continue serving on a 5-4 vote.