NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 24 – The Judiciary has affirmed its commitment to hear and determine election petitions within timelines set in law.
All judges and magistrates expected to handle election-related matters have been trained with an additional 92 magistrates trained on election offences according to Justice Msagha Mbogholi, the Head of the Judiciary Committee on Elections.
“Election disputes used to take a very long time at times even beyond the life of Parliament and this is because there were no timelines. But now, the Constitution demands of us that an election petition has to be determined in six months and the same applies to appeals. So it is envisaged that within one year no petition should be pending in courts,” Justice Mbogholi said.
Speaking Monday at a forum on election preparedness convened by Mkenya Daima under the auspices of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), Mbogholi took note of the speed with which the Judiciary has handled petitions touching on the electoral process, including ballot printing, saying the courts will continue to expedite hearings of critical matters.
He said the Judiciary continues to discharge its mandate in a manner that promotes the election laws while at the same time keeping up with timelines set by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
“The Political Parties Disputes Tribunal handled 305 disputes out of which 125 came to the High Court and twelve ended up at the Court of Appeal and since we cannot lock people out of our corridors, we have to deal with every matter that comes before us,” he said.
“The Judiciary should never be blamed for compromising the electoral system in this country and that is why we took one and a half weeks to resolve the presidential ballot printing case,” Justice Mbogholi added.
The former applicant for the position of Chief Justice also refuted claims that the Judiciary is being funded by Non-Governmental Organisations with ulterior motives.
He however said that the Judicial Arm of Government receives technical support from donors which includes technology equipment.
“We do not receive direct funds from NGOs. In fact, I would not put my figure or any figure at all in terms of NGOs support. We only receive technical support in terms of iPads, desktops and training conferences which they pay directly and therefore the issue of compromise does not come in,” he remarked adding that should there be any evidence that association with any NGO compromises on the operations of the Judiciary, they shall disengage.
He challenged the political class to desist from launching attacks on the judges and magistrates urging them to pursue legal means including filing appeals when aggrieved by decisions of lower courts.
While referring to recent attacks by members of both Jubilee and the Opposition, Justice Mbogholi said the attacks were uncalled for bearing in mind that most critics did so without even exhausting appellate mechanisms.
“We’re mindful of the fact that we shall be criticized but our system is adversarial; there must be a winner and a loser. Kindly if you’re a loser, the right channel is to appeal the decision.”
“Judges and magistrates do not have a platform to address politicians – my pen is my microphone, my message is in my judgment and my platform is my court – if you’re aggrieved, address me through that channel,” he urged.
He assured the Judiciary’s commitment to continue offering its services including on matters land, family and employment disputes despite the anticipated high number of petitions in the period leading to the polls and after.
According to Justice Mbogholi, there are enough judicial officers trained to handle election cases hence there will be no possibility of cases overflowing to other courts.
“Proper mechanisms have been put in place to have at least some judges remaining to address matters such as commercial disputes,” he said.