Disquiet over Uhuru delay in appointment of judges

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019 00:00 |
Members of the Judicial Service Commission at a past event. JSC is the employer of judicial officials. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

The delay in the formal appointment of 41 Judges by President Uhuru Kenyatta has provoked widespread speculation in judicial, legal and public circles since no explanation has been forthcoming from the Executive and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

 Some observers say the Head of State may be in possession of damning dossier involving some of the persons recommended by the JSC for the top jobs following rigorous recruitment exercises for the Appellate Bench and two High Court Divisions that were kick-started by Chief Justice David Maraga in January. 

“The President has no veto-powers over the appointments. The JSC enjoys the mandate to employ Judges. The Commission’s recommendation for appointment is final.

The President simply approves the names of the successful candidates and witnesses their swearing-in ceremony,” one of the sources, who is closely monitoring the developments told People Daily.

 Multiple sources said the President may be acting on sound legal advice following a similar scenario that culminated on June 28, 2014 when he approved the appointment of 11 out of 25 High Court Judges after a five-month hiatus.

The JSC had interviewed 76 out of 193 candidates in January 2014 and selected 25 of them for the final formalities by the President.

 “The process of appointing the remaining 14 (Judges) is still on-going and the President will give his approval or disapproval once it comes to an end,” a terse statement from State House, devoid of any explanation, had said. 

 In the latest scenario, sources said the President has no option but to undertake his constitutional duty to confirm the Judges, whose recommendations for appointment was made by the JSC on July 22 and August 13. The commission had first sanctioned 11 Appellate Judges for appointment.

 They are High Court Judges Francis Tuiyot, Hellen Omondi, Pauline Nyamweya, Weldon Korir, Msagha Mbogholi, Aggrey Muchelule, Jessie Lesiit, Mumbi Ngugi, George Odunga, Joel Ngugi and renowned scholar, Dr. Kibaya Imaana Laibuta.

Their appointment was meant to raise the number of Court of Appeal Judges from 19 to 30 but three of the sitting Judges, Alnashir Visram, Philip Waki and Erastus Githinji are taking retirement this year.

 The JSC recommended 20 Judges for appointment in the Environment and Land Division and 10 others for the Employment and Labour Relations Court.

 Already, Nairobi lawyer Adrian Kamotho Njenga has petitioned the High Court to compel the President to approve the appointments.

He has sued the Attorney General, Paul Kihara Kariuki, in his capacity as the chief government legal advisor, while the JSC and the Chief Justice are named as interested parties.

Article 259 (8) of the Constitution dictates that the appointment of persons recommended should proceed without unreasonable delay.

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