NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 12 – The Judicial Service Commission has agreed that powers to vet magistrates be reverted to the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Board after public outcry.
The Board’s Chairman Sharad Rao revealed on Thursday that Chief Justice Willy Mutunga had convened a stakeholders’ meeting last week, during which it was agreed that an amendment to the law be proposed.
“The Attorney General will therefore be asked to propose for consideration of Parliament an Amendment to the Act as now amended to revert the Vetting of Magistrates to the Vetting Board,” he asserted.
He said the meeting agreed that should the JSC handle magistrates’ vetting, the goal to restore public confidence in the Judiciary risks being watered down.
Though he did not doubt the ability and transparency of the JSC to vet magistrates, Rao expressed concerns that Kenyans may not believe the Judiciary can vet itself.
“This is to avoid any perception that a process carried out through the Judicial Service Commission however well-meaning and however transparent will not be perceived by the public as independent and in that the vetting will not achieve the intended objective of restoring public confidence in the Judiciary,” Rao noted.
Recent amendments to the vetting law transferred the duty of vetting magistrates to the JSC, and left the Board with the responsibility of checking the suitability of judges.
The International Commission of Jurists, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the Law Society of Kenya are among stakeholders that raised concerns over the issue.
Meanwhile, Lady Justice Kalpana Rawal was the first to appear before the Board after it resumed its work on Thursday morning.
Justice Wanjiru Karanja is expected to appear before the board on Friday while Justice Jessie Lesiit will have his day on Monday.
By next week the vetting board will have interviewed 10 judges.
Out of the nine judges of the Court of Appeal who vetted, four were declared unfit to continue serving in the Judiciary. However, they have all appealed against the decision.
The vetting board is expected to review their applications challenging the decision next week and deliver its verdict before next Friday.