Wamalwa seeks to appease lawyers

July 2, 2012 1:22 pm
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LSK wants amendments to The Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Act, the Advocates Act, The Political Parties Act, the Magistrates Court Act, The Civil Procedure Act as well as the Appellate Jurisdiction Act/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 2 – The government has promised to look into objections raised by the Law Society of Kenya over sections of the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Eugene Wamalwa gave the LSK this assurance after he received a petition from the lawyers on Monday morning.

Wamalwa said that his office will engage the office of the Attorney General and that of the parliamentary Justice and Legal Affairs Committee within the two weeks to review the amendments.

LSK wants amendments to The Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Act, the Advocates Act, The Political Parties Act, the Magistrates Court Act, The Civil Procedure Act as well as the Appellate Jurisdiction Act.

On the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Act, the LSK is opposed to transferring the mandate of vetting magistrates to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the removal of timelines for vetting of judicial officers.

The petition says the vetting of magistrates is a function of an independent body as provided for in Article 171 of the Constitution and not that of the JSC.

The lawyers have insisted that there will be no transparency and fairness in the process as the JSC is in its composition lacks representation of foreign judges.

They say that there is likely to arise a conflict of interest as some members of the JSC (a sitting magistrate, the registrar and the deputy registrar who man the Secretariat) will be subject to the vetting in their capacities as Magistrates.

On the Advocates Act, the LSK was opposed to changing the name of the disciplinary committee to the Disciplinary Tribunal. LSK argues that the legal profession is self regulating and does not require government interference.

They opine that a tribunal is a quasi-judicial body that requires funding and that it would become government machinery like any other tribunal in the constitution.

The lawyers want the disciplinary committee to have jurisdiction over advocates conducting cross border practice in other East African countries whenever they are handling matters in Kenya.

The LSK is also opposed to amendments that sought to open the legal practice in Kenya to advocates of superior courts in countries within the commonwealth. They argue that Kenya should not open doors to countries that do not offer reciprocal treatment to advocates admitted in Kenya.

Last week, the chairman of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board Sharad Rao expressed concern over the amendments transferring some of his team’s mandate to the JSC saying that the process will lack credibility and will lose public trust.

The Law Society maintains that the president should not append his signature on the laws until there is stakeholder consensus on the Bill.

Attorney General Githu Muigai last week told the LSK that The Statute law Miscellaneous Amendment Bill is not generated by ministries and that the changes parliament had approved on the on the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Act could be reversed through a stand alone Bill.

Last Monday president Kibaki declined to assent to the omnibus amendments Bill that among other things sought to legalise party-hopping and returned the Bill to Parliament for amendments.

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