, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 24 – The Judiciary Working Committee on Election Preparations is recommending a set of amendments to the Elections Act that will see magistrates given the mandate to hear petitions related to county polls.
Chief Justice Willy Mutunga warned that if the changes were not implemented, then the High Court would be faced with a dilemma since judges would be forced to set aside normal work to hear the petitions which must be determined within six months.
Section 75(1) of the Election Act states; “A question as to validity of a county election shall be determined by the High Court within the county or nearest to the county.”
But the CJ cautioned: “It is anticipated that with the increase in the number of electoral positions, there will be an average of 500 petitions filed challenging the validity of the elections… with the expected plethora of petitions, the High Court will not have the capacity to efficiently and effectively handle petitions within the set timelines.”
“If you take the 70 judges we currently have to hear what we suspect to between 200 and 500 petitions, it means that for six months the High Court will be engaged in this political exercise to the exclusion of the other work,” explained the Chief Justice.
Section 75(2) of the Election Act states; “A question under subsection (1) shall be heard and determined within six months of the date of lodging the petition.”
Speaking during a round table meeting with editors, High Court judge David Majanja who is a member of the committee said they have further recommended amendments to Section 96 of the Elections Act to give the Rules Committee of the High Court powers to make regulations regarding elections petitions.
The Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Gladys Shollei said they were confident that it will use the experience arising from the boundaries cases to ensure that the petitions are heard and determined within six months as prescribed in the Constitution.
The CJ said the Supreme Court Technical Committee on rules will be meeting presidential aspirants to gather their opinions on the draft Supreme Court Rules on Presidential Elections.
“We are going to engage the potential presidential candidates so that there is no suggestion or doubt that the rules are impartial,” he said.