, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 14 – The High Court was on Thursday morning expected to deliver judgment in a case that pits retired Justice Nicholas Ombija against the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board (JMVB).
Ombija wants the court to quash the JMVB’s declaration that he is unsuitable to hold office as a judge on the grounds that he opted to retire early rather than be re-vetted.
“JMVB has no jurisdiction to vet a judge who has voluntarily retired from judicial service,” he contends.
An assertion which the JMVB takes issue with for the reason that, they argue, he did not have the option to opt out of re-vetting.
“The option of retirement afforded to a judge who did not wish to be vetted had to be exercised within three months of the commencement of the (JMVB) Act. The date of commencement of the Act was May 19, 2011,”JMVB Chairperson Sharad Rao responded.
The JMVB therefore want the High Court to dismiss Ombija’s contention and uphold their finding of unsuitability, as a safeguard, should he choose to reapply for the post as a judge.
It is not the first time the two parties have faced off in court with Ombija’s challenge to an initial finding of unsuitability going all the way to the Supreme Court; at which point it was decided that he be vetted afresh in a ruling rendered on March 7.
Less than 24-hours later, Ombija wrote to Rao informing him of his decision to retire early rather than submit to the vetting exercise a second time.
Rao rejected the notice of retirement on the grounds that it was erroneously addressed to him whereas it should have properly been addressed to his employer, Judicial Service Commission, and for the reasons captured above.
The JMVB was charged with investigating complaints that Ombija sent a girl to an all-boys borstal and harassed a female advocate among other errors of judgment he’s accused of making prior to the promulgation of the Constitution; it having demanded that all judges in office at the time be vetted.