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April 14, 2021 | Lady Justice Koome Martha Karambu appearing before the JSC for her interview for the position of Chief Justice.

Kenya

Koome tasked to explain an after hours poll-related ruling in 2017

Justice David Manjanja, a commissioner, raised the issue noting Koome was part of the bench that heard and determined a case overturning a High Court ruling which had held that Returning Officers hired by IEBC were irregularly recruited and could not, therefore, oversee the 2017 election.

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 14 – The Judicial Service Commission on Wednesday questioned Lady Justice Martha Koome over an ex-parte hearing of a poll-related petition in 2017 slated way past the set court operation hours without the authorization of the Chief Justice.

Justice David Manjanja, a commissioner, raised the issue noting Koome was part of the bench that heard and determined a case overturning a High Court ruling which had held that Returning Officers hired by IEBC were irregularly recruited and could not, therefore, oversee the 2017 election.

Majanja said the three-judge bench heard and determined the case without clear approval of the Chief Justice and in absence of the the petitioner’s counsel.

“This is critical because it does not appear from your decision whether you inquired whether  all the parties were there and whether there was an appeal. We don’t know whether the CJ authorized the night hearing. We also know the party was not called and there is no record of that,” he said.

Justice Majanja said the hearing of the matter ex parte raises questions about her integrity and suitability for appointment as the Chief Justice.

While defending herself, the appellate judge, however, said she considered it a matter of urgency and that the bench as a whole considered it a matter of national interest.

She explained that the day before elections, she was called by the registrar and told the matter was certified urged and that she was part of the bench to hear the petition.

“This was a matter extraordinary which required intervention, it does not occur every day, you use your discretion to see the matter. that the election date had been set and that if not heard, there would be a constitutional crisis,” Koome submitted.

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“I knew when dealing with the presidential petition, we consider them urgent yet the matter before the court touched on the presidential petition,” she added.

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