NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 2 – Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has raised alarm over what he describes as a rising threat to the independence of the Judiciary.
Mutunga however said the Judiciary would not be cowed, and will continue to discharge its duty without fear or favour.
“There has emerged a pattern by political leaders and other Kenyans of intimidating judicial officers engaged in the official task of interpreting and applying the Constitution. It is both unhealthy and unwarranted,” Mutunga said at a news conference on Sunday.
He has warned that a cut in funding to the Judiciary by Sh500 million will hurt the public the most, and not the comfort of judicial officers.
“We shall continue to exercise our power without hindrance. We shall scale our operations, down or up, according to the resources allocated to us,” he added.
“If anyone thinks that the Judiciary will cower in fear because of insults and threats, I am afraid that they are very mistaken. If anyone thinks that we shall suddenly change our way of establishing rules and procedure on how matters are received, managed and disposed, then they will wait for a very long time,” the CJ warned.
The Chief Justice described the debate over independence of the Judiciary, Executive and Legislature as healthy, since there are gaps in the Constitution that will call for such deliberations until a solution is achieved.
“By its very nature the Constitution contains many gaps, ambiguities and ambivalence, which will only be clarified through litigation and national dialogue. Transitions are messy, but they are necessary for growth. Our Constitution is just beginning to flower,” he said.
Mutunga however warned that despite the row over the supremacy of institutions in Kenya, respect for the rule of law is not an option but an order that should be obeyed by all Kenyans irrespective of their status.
“Neither the Chief Justice nor the Judicial Service Commission has any power – constitutional, legal or moral – to tell judges what to decide. Doing so would be corrupt, immoral and unconstitutional. That is the old Judiciary that was thoroughly discredited in the eyes of Kenyans,” Mutunga asserted.
The Chief Justice was concerned that there are instances in which court orders have been disobeyed and some parties have even gone to an extent of threatening judicial officers and undermining the Judiciary.
He reminded Kenyans that the Judiciary is an independent organ guided by principles that shield and defend the Laws of Kenya.
Mutunga also said judges make independent decisions and no one has power to advise them what to do or what decision to make.
Mutunga’s remarks come as Governors, Senators and the Executive argue over the mandate regarding the removal and reinstatement of Martin Wambora as Embu Governor.
The Senate removed him from office but the courts suspended the gazette notice of his removal, pending hearing of a case challenging the decision to eject him from office.
The Senators have accused courts of overstepping their mandate.