, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 22 – Four new members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) were sworn-in on Wednesday ending months of speculation over a possible quorum hitch.
Attorney General Kihara Kariuki replaced his predecessor Githu Muigai in the commission with former National Assembly Clerk Patrick Gichohi, ex-Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei, and former Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor Olive Mugenda taking slots left vacant by Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia, Kipng’etich arap Korir and Winifred Guchu (Chief Administrative Secretary – Ministry of Water).
The commission has for the past nine months operated within a razor-thin quorum margin, with the absence of any of its six members rendering it short of the statutory quorum of six.
With the exit of Muigai, Kobia, Korir, and Guchu, the commission membership was reduced to six – CJ David Maraga, DCJ Philomena Mwilu, Justice Aggrey Muchelule (High Court), Emily Ominde (Magistrate Court), and Law Society of Kenya representatives Mercy Deche and Prof Tom Ojienda.
Under the Judicial Service Act (2011) the JSC Chairperson is to convene a meeting at least once every three months.
Speaking when he presided over the swearing-in of the four members, Chief Justice Maraga underscored the importance of commission saying it was central to upholding the independence of the judiciary.
“The major mandate of the JSC is to facilitate the independence of the judiciary – that is the core function,” Maraga noted.
Commissioner Mercy Deche however urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint the Court of Appeal nominee, Justice Mohammed Warsame, to fill the remaining slot in the JSC.
“The 11th member (Justice Warsame) has been identified but he is yet to be appointed. Our appeal is that the same be done because we’re not able to operate at optimum when we have one member less,” she appealed.
Justice Warsame’s appointment has been at the centre of a supremacy battle between the National Assembly and the Judiciary with the former insisting to have the judge vetted by the House before taking up the JSC position despite prohibitory orders by the High Court.
Three out of the four nominees sworn Wednesday also faced stiff opposition since their appointment by President Kenyatta in February after a lobby group moved to court objecting their appointment.
Gichohi, Koskei, and Mugenda were cleared for swearing -in July when the High Court dismissed the application.