, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 1 – The Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board has expressed its disappointment over Tuesday’s temporary orders by the Court of Appeal, halting the judicial vetting process that was scheduled to kick off on February 14.
Board Chairman Sharad Rao told Capital News that the ruling, which gave a 21-day stay, was worrying as it would delay the process of spearheading judicial reforms that were envisaged by the Constitution.
He said that the board wanted to have all the Judges vetted and settled well before the forthcoming polls in order to help restore public confidence in the Judiciary.
“The process is now delayed and whether it will only be delayed for the 21 days is unclear so that is a matter of concern for me, the board and the entire Kenyan public,” he said. Read appeals courts decision here.
He also said that the ruling created a potential conflict of interest as it was made by judges who are also required to appear before the vetting board.
Rao further observed that the board would have to postpone all the interviews that had already been set up and reschedule them after the court determines the way forward.
He however said that if the Court of Appeal failed to renew the 21-day stay period, then the board would start the interviews immediately to complete the vetting process for Court of Appeal Judges before mid March.
“Assuming that there are no further orders of stay we could still be able to deal with the Court of Appeal judges by the first week of March and immediately follow it up with High Court judges,” he noted.
He however said that the window for submitting any concerns on the judges and magistrates, to be vetted, was still open to Kenyans provided they made their submissions before the actual vetting dates.
“The only bar as far as the submissions are concerned is that they must come at least 14 days before a particular judge or magistrate is to be vetted. This is because the officials to be vetted should have advance notice of the complaint so that they are able to respond,” he explained.
The board is scheduled to hold a meeting on February 3 to come up with a way forward with regard to the new tentative dates for the interviews.
Rao reiterated his assurance to the judges and magistrates saying that the vetting process would not be a witch-hunt.
He said that the judges and magistrates had nothing to worry about revealing that the board had even forwarded questions that it would ask the judicial officers in addition to forwarding a list of concerns meted against them.
“Of course if concerns are raised about a particular judge we will take them with the seriousness that they deserve but the point is that the process will be free and fair,” he maintained.
The board has been going round the country seeking Kenyans’ opinions on the Judiciary. This has however raised concern among some judges and magistrates who feel like it (the board) is going out to solicit complaints against them from Kenyans.
Rao argued that the countrywide tours were simply meant to educate the public on the vetting process so as to keep them informed and allay any anxieties.
“There is need for public support because we don’t want Kenyans to think that this process is being done in the dark. We have to make sure that they understand that the vetting processes will not necessarily be in public,” he said.
The Law Society of Kenya has also been asked by the board to provide any background information it may have on the judicial officers.