ICJ petitions Uhuru to review Judiciary budget cut decision
Key operations in the Judiciary have been drastically affected by a reduction on its budgetary allocations by Treasury, with the figure having shot down to Sh14.5 billion, forcing the courts to suspend some operations due to financial constraints.
This is after acting National Treasury Cabinet secretary Ukur Yatani, issued a circular on September 24, “to ensure provisions for the implementation of the Big Four”, reducing the recurrent and development funds by Sh1.493 billion and Sh1.404 billion respectively.
The Chief Justice David Maraga-led body had presented a budgetary request of Sh31.2 billion for the current financial year, but the request was reduced to Sh17.4 billion reflecting an over 50 per cent deficit cut from initial budget.
International Commission of Jurists, an international human rights non-governmental organisation, has now petitioned the President to review the budget cuts.
ICJ’s chairman Kelvin Mogeni has told President Uhuru Kenyatta that the move by the government to reduce Judiciary’s budget was a continuous trend by his administration to interfere with independence of the courts.
“The needs and priorities of the Judiciary should not be undermined by the priorities of the other arms of government. Otherwise this can easily be interpreted as undue influence and interference with the independence of the Judiciary,” Mogeni said in his petition that was copied to Yatani.
The 50 per cent reduction in development funding to the Judiciary, Mogeni said equates to suspension of over 100 court constructions and rehabilitation works that are at various stages of progress.
According to Mogeni, the circular, which has seen the Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amandi introduce austerity measures, has resulted in many negative trends that are derailing the cause of justice since some tribunals have suspended their sittings.
Further, reduction in recurrent funding, Mogeni said, will affect quality of service delivery, including operation of mobile courts and sub-registries, equipping and refurbishing courtrooms, training of judicial officers and staff, and digitisation of court processes.
“Financial autonomy is an essential element of judicial independence, which in turn is a pre-requisite to the rule of law and a fundamental guarantee of a fair trial. Courts should not be subject to improper influence, which includes financial interference,” reads the petition in part.
To that effect, the president has been asked to direct the Executive and public officials “to cease and desist” from interfering with the independence of the Judiciary and undermining its authority by respecting and supporting its independence.
Further, he has been asked to mobilise the Jubilee members of Parliament and their partners in the legislature to expedite the establishment of the Judiciary Fund as a way of ensuring financial autonomy.