NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 24 – A seven-member panel constituted to probe the conduct of suspended Supreme Court Judge Prof Jackton Ojwang will announce its program sometime next week, the lead counsel has told Capital FM News.
Lawyer Paul Nyamodi Wednesday said the tribunal which was inaugurated by Chief Justice David Maraga three weeks ago was working on a schedule before commencing its sittings.
“We shall give an update next week on our activities,” he said adding a date for the commencement of the tribunal’s sittings was yet to be set.
He would not comment on whether or not the tribunal chaired by Court of Appeal Judge Alnashir Visram had received funding for its operations.
The Visram-led panel is mandated to scrutinise alleged misconduct, impropriety, conflict of interest and breach of the judicial code of conduct grounds raised by nine petitioners seeking the removal of Justice Ojwang from office.
The 69-year-old jurist was suspended by President Uhuru Kenyatta on April 2 after the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) recommended the establishment of a tribunal to investigate him.
The Commission while announcing its decision to recommend the establishment of a tribunal on March 20 said the Supreme Court Judge failed to defend himself before its committee, claims Prof Ojwang refuted.
The Supreme Court judge has had acrimonious engagements with some JSC members in the past, notably in 2016 when he appeared before the commission to be interviewed for the position of Chief Justice ahead of the exit then President of the Supreme Court, Willy Mutunga.
Ojwang clashed with Commissioner Justice Mohammed Warsame who took him to task over a protest letter he co-authored with two colleague judges warning JSC against interfering with the court.
Ojwang, Justice Mohammed Ibrahim, and Lady Justice Njoki Ndung’u had on September 24, 2015 written to the JSC warning of a possible suspension of the activities of the apex court should the commission interfere with the court’s mandate.
“The Supreme Court must uphold the terms of the Constitution strictly. Any illegitimate interference with the work of the court, or its seven members will necessitate a moratorium on all of its judicial operations with immediate effect,” the three had written in response to JSC’s decision to retire Judge Philip Tunoi and then Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal.
“How was the complaint to be raised? It was to be raised through a letter,” Ojwang remarked as he faced off with Justice Warsame over the letter the JSC member termed as a threat to withdraw judicial services.
Petitioners seeking Ojwang’s removal from office have taken issue with his involvement in a miscellaneous application 49 of 2014 between the Awendo Town Council and the petitioners “despite being conflicted and being closely associated with the County Government of Migori and the Governor Okoth Obado.”
“The petition detailed instances which the petitioners believed constituted grounds of misconduct, impropriety, conflict of interest and breach of judicial code of conduct on the part of the Hon Judge,” JSC stated.
During his swearing-in as chairperson of the tribunal, Justice Visram committed to supervising a fair process in strict adherence to the law.
“This is an important constitutional responsibility to which we’ve been assigned. On behalf of my team, I want to commit to the people of Kenya that we’ll discharge our duties fully and faithfully in accordance with the law and with the oath of office we’ve taken,” he said during the inauguration of the tribunal on April 8.
Justice Visram was sworn in alongside Justice (Rtd) Festus Azangalala, Senior Counsel Lucy Kambuni, lawyer Ambrose Weda, Andrew Bahati Mwamuye, Amina Abdalla and Sylvia Muchiri.
Lawyer Nyamodi was sworn-in as Lead Counsel with Peter Kariuki and Josiah Musili taking oath as Joint Secretaries to the tribunal.
Stella Munyi was sworn in at a later date as an assisting counsel.
Article 168 of the Constitution provides for removal of judges of superior courts from office under a tribunal framework on grounds of mental or physical incapacity, breach of prescribed code of conduct, bankruptcy, incompetence, and gross misconduct.
A suspended judge is entitled to half the remuneration benefits payable to them pending determination of their fate by tribunal.