NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 30 – The fate of nine judges who were vetted to gauge their suitability to continue sitting in the Court of Appeal, will be known on April 25.
The chairman of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board Sharad Rao said on Friday that those who fail to make the cut will be allowed to request for a review by the same panel within seven days.
Justices Riaga Omolo, Philip Tunoi, Joseph Nyamu, Erastus Githinji, Alnashir Visram, Emanuel Okubasu, Onyango Otieno, Philip Waki, and Samuel Bosire were vetted for their suitability between February 23 and March 26.
“When we do make our decision as to unsuitability then the Judge has to be informed of our decision within 30 days of our determination and that is why April 25 is significant. It will be within the 30-day period,” he said.
Judges who are disqualified will not be allowed to appeal against the board’s decision in a court of law as it could create a conflict of interest.
Board member Albie Sachs explained that this would reduce the possibility of conflict of interest and it will help ensure that the process remained independent.
“The processes of the board cannot be questioned by a court and this is partly to save the courts’ the position of having to decide themselves whether or not the body vetting them had done it in an appropriate way,” he argued.
The panel expressed concern with the fact that it received very few opinions on the suitability of the nine candidates.
Rao noted that the Attorney General, Advocates Disciplinary Committee, Advocates Complaints Commission, Public Complaints Standing Committee, the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission, the National Intelligence Service and the police all failed to make submissions on the judges’ character despite being formally asked to do so.
“It should be noted that in spite of widespread public perceptions of continuing corruption in the Judiciary, relatively few complaints of bribe taking were received,” he said.
“And when it comes to allegations of corruption it will depend a lot on the evidence that is presented to the board but it is disappointing that not many came forward,” he added.
Rao further observed that none of the judges agreed to be vetted in public. But this is allowed by the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Act.
“We are following the rules of fairness but if you have concerns this is the time to come forward and tell us because if you don’t tell us our scope is limited. And we would also like to see the positive elements of a Judge,” he said.
The panel, which is planning to kick off the vetting of High Court Judges on April 26, added that it would ask for an extension of time to grill magistrates.
Rao noted that the panel had a one-year timeline, since its inception, to vet members of the Judiciary including 352 magistrates and it would be impossible to complete the task within the remaining time.
“We will be able to complete our work within the one year as far as Judges are concerned but it is highly unlikely that we will do the same with 352 magistrates. Chances are that we will need more than one year to complete the process,” he said.
All the Court of Appeal Judges were grilled between February 23 and March 26.
Justices Jackton Ojwang and Ibrahim Warsame, who are already members of the Supreme Court, will be grilled on their suitability over the period when they served as High Court Judges. Their interviews are set for April 26 and 27 respectively.
“Then from May 2 vetting interviews will take place with other Judges of the High Court including those recently promoted to the Court of Appeal,” Rao said.