NAIROBI, Kenya, May 15 – Newly inaugurated Law Society of Kenya (LSK) male representative in the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has described his triumph over an incumbent commissioner in last week’s poll as a statement of defiance against the controversial amendment of nomination rules ahead of last week’s nationwide polls.
Macharia Njeru who beat Prof Tom Ojienda in a hotly contested election told Capital FM News on Wednesday the changes made during an Annual General Meeting in March were ill-conceived and will be repealed in due time.
“It wasn’t a majority of lawyers who backed the changes, it just happened that it was the ones who were present at the AGM. My election tells you that majority of lawyers were against the changes and I am certain that the rules will be reinstated,” Njeru who was sworn-in at a ceremony presided over by Chief Justice David Maraga said.
The AGM rescinded a rule requiring lawyers seeking election as LSK representatives in JSC to present clearance certificates from the Higher Education Loans Board and Kenya Revenue Authority professedly to allow Ojienda to defend his position as a commissioner after KRA declined to clear him.
Njeru pledged to safeguard the independence of JSC saying he will not appear before courts and tribunals to represent clients, a practice he said would amount to conflict of interest.
“Lawyers are clear that they do not want a member of the commission to appear before judges and tribunals. I verily believe that it is not right for me as a commissioner to appear before the same judges, magistrates, and tribunals which I am probably responsible for their appointment and disciplinary process,” he said.
The LSK representative promised to work towards improved bar-bench relations and efficient utilization of funds allocated to the Judiciary to guarantee first class services to citizens.
“Lawyers want a JSC and Judiciary that is independent of both State and non-State actors. Lawyers have given me strict instructions to pass a message that they do not want cartels’ capture of the Judiciary whether by internal or external players. Lawyers insist they want a corruption-free Judiciary,” Njeru said in his acceptance speech.
Njeru’s election in last week’s poll and subsequent forwarding of his name to President Uhuru Kenyatta for appointment to the JSC has threatened to tear apart the LSK with some members said to be considering mounting a legal challenge.
Emerging differences escalated to the society’s 13-member Executive Council forcing LSK President Allen Gichuhi to disband the council’s social media forum citing disrespect and “repeated insults” from a member.
“I disbanded the Council WhatsApp chat group after this particular Council member engaged in repeated insults despite my warning that the group would be disbanded if this continued. Council resolutions are made at Council meetings and not on WhatsApp,” he said in a brief note.
Gichuhi said he will not be cowed into silence by a section of LSK members determined to undermine his authority.
“I have said it several times that I am a stickler for the rule of law and protection of the Constitution. As a practitioner and professional I will never bend the Rules to please anyone,” he remarked.
Also sworn-in as a JSC commissioner on Wednesday was Justice David Majanja who was elected unopposed to represent Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association.
He pledged to champion for the independence of the Judiciary and enhance access to justice.
CJ Maraga welcomed the appointment of the two commissioners asking them to ensure the Judiciary achieves improved accountability and efficiency.
“Your first duty is to ensure the rule of law is guaranteed and that the provisions of the Constitution are adhered to,” he said.
Njeru and Majanja will join nine other commissioners under the chairpersonship of Chief Justice Maraga.
Other members are Attorney General Kihara Kariuki who replaced his predecessor Githu Muigai at the JSC in November last year, former National Assembly Clerk Patrick Gichohi, ex-Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei, and former Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor Olive Mugenda.
Gichohi, Koskei, Mugenda replaced Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia, Kipng’etich arap Korir and Winifred Guchu (Chief Administrative Secretary – Ministry of Water) who served as commissioners prior to their current appointments.
Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, and Chief Magistrate Emily Ominde represent the Supreme Court and Magistrates’ Courts respectively.
Advocate Mercy Deche is the LSK’s female representative at the commission.