, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 11 – Chief Justice Evan Gicheru on Tuesday urged judges to uphold high standards in administering justice and ignore any form of interference from the Executive.
Justice Gicheru who spoke at the Annual Judges Colloquium in Nairobi told the judicial officers they would be held “individually responsible and accountable” for their actions and performance in the course of duty.
Even though he defended the judicial officers against being susceptible to interference and corruption, the CJ said it was upon “each and every judge to uphold high standards” in their work at all times.
“The judiciary should not feel that adhering to the standards of accountability is inimical to its independence,” he said.
“The society has got a right to demand better governance from the judiciary. Many citizens now want judges to be accountable as they feel that there are no avenues to remedy the misbehaviour and maltreatment of witnesses or litigants at the hands of the judges.”
He did not spare the lower courts either, saying the public was slowly losing confidence in them.
“They (public) sometimes feel that these misbehaviour and malpractices are not corrected by superior courts and that the superior courts would protect their own and it is useless to make complaints,” he said.
While underlining the need for the judges to uphold high standards in the course of their work, the CJ said: “Judges and courts are accountable for their performance. They perform their duties in public and at times are subject to intense public and media scrutiny.”
He reminded the judges of the need to respect the privileges and immunities they enjoy because “misuse of these privileges by some, has also led to a call for common standards of conduct and better accountability from the judiciary.”
Right to demand better service
Justice Gicheru spoke candidly about why the public was justified in their consistent calls for better service in Kenyan courts which were once perceived as a den of corruption before some judges were axed.
Therefore, he said, accountability and transparency were an essence in any democracy.
“Like every other institution dealing with the public, the judicial arm of the government is also accountable,” he said.
He reminded the judges that the independence of the judiciary did not mean that they were at will to do whatever they wanted but instead were required to adhere strictly to the laws of the land.
“Expectation of independence and impartiality is much higher from the Judiciary than any other organ,” he said. “Deciding the cases before them in an expeditious and fair manner and giving reasoned orders is another aspect of such accountability.”
The Chief Justice urged the judges to particularly concentrate on eliminating the backlog of cases in their jurisdictions to be able to gain back public confidence by offering better services while at the same time meeting the required international standards.
He said the process of hiring some 20 more judges was underway to strengthen the capacity of the judicial system in determining cases expeditiously.
“Once we hire the 20 judges, we will have strength of 70 because we currently have about 50 Judges,” he said and disclosed that he will be “seeking an expansion from the Constitution to hire more.”
Post Election Violence Cases
The Chief Justice told off politicians who have lately criticised the judiciary of being incapable of handling cases related to post election violence.
He said his judges were not susceptible to interference because they were independent were capable of handling all matters including cases of the post election violence. There has been robust debate lately, with a section of leaders demanding that the cases to tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) as opposed to establishing a local tribunal.
“Why they think that probably they can’t trust the judiciary on that is because they fear interferences from elsewhere. I can tell you for sure that the judiciary does its work according to the law,” he said.