NAIROBI, Kenya, May 24 – The nominee for Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal was on Friday put to task by Parliament’s Justice and Legal Affairs committee over her past judgements.
Members of the committee put her on the spot over key cases like that on Robert Ouko’s murder and investigations into Professor George Saitoti’s death.
“Is it by coincidence that every time that there is an exciting issue Judge Rawal is called upon to superintend? Are you a gatekeeper for the Executive?” The committee sought to know.
Rawal denied that she was a gatekeeper for the Executive and that she was always chosen because the government was guaranteed she would rule in its favour.
“I don’t know why I get all this high profile cases. I am not even sure why the Chief Justice chose me to lead the commission into Saitoti’s death. But some people told me that probably because of my skin, I will be deemed to be fair and was selected for that,” she said.
Rawal said she would work with Chief Justice Willy Mutunga to ensure the necessary judicial reforms are fully implemented.
She said corruption, nepotism and the backlog of cases would be a thing of the past during her watch.
“I don’t want to say what I will do in one year but my main one is that the access to justice is properly formalized and interaction between stakeholders is strengthened,” Rawal stated.
The Judicial Service Commission had nominated the Court of Appeal judge to fill the vacant DCJ’s position following the resignation Nancy Baraza.
After two days of interviews, Rawal beat four other shortlisted candidates for the position. The JSC said Rawal’s professional experience got her the nomination.
During her interview with the JSC, Rawal said she was the most experienced to replace Baraza after serving in the Judiciary for many years.
Rawal had attempted to get the position in 2012 before it was awarded to Baraza.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts, as well as Bachelor and Master of Laws in Constitutional and Administrative Law. In 1975 she became the first woman lawyer to set up her own private practice in Kenya. She ran her general practice until 1999 when she was appointed a commissioner of assize, and thereafter a judge of the High Court.
She has also chaired several other commissions arguing that her rich experience will boost the work of the Judiciary if she is selected the next DCJ.
In 2010, she was appointed to help top government officials record statements with International Criminal Court investigators who were pursuing Kenyans accused of perpetrating post election violence in 2008.
In 2012, Justice Rawal was appointed by former President Mwai Kibaki to head the team set up to investigate the June 10, 2012 helicopter crash that killed six government officials including the late Internal Security minister George Saitoti and his assistant, Orwa Ojode.
The parliamentary committee is to meet on Monday to compile a report on her suitability which will be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday for debate.
The Constitution requires the president to appoint a deputy CJ in accordance with the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and subject to the approval of the National Assembly.