, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Supreme Court judge Mohammed Ibrahim has been declared unfit to serve in the Judiciary by the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board.
The Board, chaired by Sharad Rao, ruled on Friday that Justice Ibrahim was found unfit after various complaints that he delayed cases that had been brought before him when he served in lower courts.
His fellow judge in the country’s superior court, Jackton Ojwang’ was however cleared after vetting.
Court of Appeal judge Roselyne Nambuye was ruled unsuitable to serve in the Judiciary, while her colleagues in the court Kihara Kariuki and Hannah Okwengu were found to be fit and should continue serving.
The vetting board opined that the delay of judges in providing rulings and judgments, sometimes running into years, has had particularly severe negative consequences for public belief in the Judiciary.
According to the vetting board, Justice Ibrahim inordinately delayed the delivery of judgments and rulings and was even unable to accurately recall the number of judgments and rulings still outstanding from his time in the High Court.
Ibrahim is said to have had 264 outstanding matters – some pending since 2004 – a year after he was appointed High Court Judge
“This is not a borderline case. The delays were unacceptable, carried like a hump on a camel’s back from one posting to the next. Literally hundreds of litigants from every walk of life felt robbed of their right to have their cases finally determined. The judge might have heard them with empathy, but he failed to deliver with celerity. The damage done to public confidence in the Judiciary was indubitable, extensive and irremediable, the board observed in its verdict.
“After applying the objective criteria set out in the Act and balancing out all the different factors, the Panel recommended and the Board unanimously accepted that he is NOT suitable to continue as a judge,” read the Board Chairman Sharad Rao.
The Supreme Court, originally with seven judges now is without two judges following the suspension of Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza.
Despite the noted commitment to securing the rights for women and to social justice, Justice Nambuye was found to be unsuitable primarily for delayed judgments for periods ranging from four months to four years.
“After applying the objective criteria set out in the Act and balancing all the relevant factors, a majority of the Board ultimately decided that the repetitive and enduring character of the delays rendered the judge unsuitable to continue serving on the Bench,” read the determination.
The board found Justice Nambuye to be a poor manager, a factor that together with other systemic inefficiencies of the Judiciary contributed to the backlog of cases for which she was responsible.
According to the board, Justice Nambuye lacked focused and effective analysis of judgments and in some instances her rulings demonstrated her failure of grasping the main legal questions and factual matters.
She was however cleared of allegations against her of incompetence, bias, unfairness and dishonest treatment. Other complaints against Nambuye that the board found to lack merit include the lack of diligence, partiality and impropriety.
Justice Jackton Boma Ojwang was cleared chiefly due to the fact the despite his ill health he set about in a disciplined and rigorous way to clear the backlog after he spent lots of time on treatment abroad.
“The judge came through to the Board as an intellectual of calibre, dedicated to his work as a judge. The delays for which he was responsible do raise serious concerns. Nevertheless, the Board noted that once his health improved, he set about clearing the backlog in a precise and organised way,” read the verdict clearing Justice Ojwang.
The Board is mandated by law to vet the suitability of all judges who were serving in the Judiciary before August 27, 2010 when the new Constitution came into effect.
Its decision is final, although an aggrieved judge is allowed to apply to the board for a review of the decision. It is the board’s prerogative, however, to decide whether to re-open the vetting of a judge or to reject the application.
The ruling of the board cannot be challenged before any court or other body.