NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 19 – House Speaker Kenneth Marende has challenged judges to issue rulings that take into account the country’s interests, saying the law does not exist in a vacuum.
Marende, who was speaking during the launch of a report taking stock of the progress made by the Judiciary over the last one year, said judges should first analyse the economic and political scenarios in the country before delivering their rulings.
Although he commended the progress made by the country’s court system, Marende said rulings ought to uphold the best interests of the common mwananchi.
“I sat in a class which you lectured in 1978 and you (Chief Justice) reminded us many times that law does not operate in a vacuum so I want to ask the judges of our courts that even as you write that judgment examine it against the political economy of our nation,” he urged on Friday.
He also asked the Judiciary to support and respect the processes of Parliament in addition to expediting any outstanding rulings that touched on the polls.
He noted the crucial role that the courts played in ensuring that the country did not witness a repeat of the bloody 2008 post-election violence while at the same time urging politicians and their supporters to exercise restraint as they undertook their political campaigns.
“I want to ask the Judiciary to allow Parliament its space; let Parliament freely legislate and check only when necessary because Parliament respects court orders,” he said.
Marende further warned politicians against polarising the country along tribal and religious lines saying Kenyans should embrace their diversity.
“We must be proud of our ethnic and cultural diversity because in diversity lies our strength; weigh your words even as you campaign because the ramifications will be great,” he said.
Chief Justice Willy Mutunga on his part noted the challenges that the Judiciary was facing in delivering its duties given that it was grossly understaffed.
He explained that a Rapid Results Initiative that was recently adopted realised that the Judiciary could not operate at its optimum ability because it only had 47 percent of the established staff capacity.
Mutunga noted instances where magistrates had to supervise the construction works of court buildings while the court’s support staff doubled up as clerks.
“Percentages have a way of covering the truth until it suffocates so I will speak plainly. Everybody who worked in the Judiciary was expected to do the jobs of two people; where there were supposed to be 70 judges of the High Court there were only 42,” he revealed.
“Where the establishment figure for magistrates was 880 there were only 330 and where the system was designed to function with 8,800 administrative staff there were only 3,500,” he added.
The scorecard further brought out the realities in the Judiciary where the justice to population ratio, during the period under review, was one Judge for half a million Kenyans and one magistrate for 90,000 Kenyans.
The Chief Justice also noted that inaccessibility of the courts, lack of information, alienation and delays in court rulings continued hampering judicial services.
“Emerging from such a complex background it is little wonder then that one of the commonest indictments on the Judiciary is inability to dispense justice without delay but whatever reasons for the delays the Constitution now demands that justice shall not be delayed,” he said.
Mutunga further revealed that 428, 827 cases were launched between June 2011 and June 2012 across all courts and about 421,134 were finalised within the same period.
“On average we are concluding 1,700 cases every working day but a similar number of cases are being filed. The pending cases carried over, over this period were 802 570,” he said.
He added that the courts had adopted an innovative approach to tackle backlog over the same period that helped determine 30,670 out of the 58,800 cases that had been pending in the country’s superior courts in just 100 days.