Relief for Judiciary after court stops circular

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019 07:38 |
Chief Justice and President of Supreme Court, David Maraga. Photo/PD/CHARLES MATHAI

Judiciary got a relief yesterday after the high court stopped Treasury Cabinet Secretary (CS) Ukur Yatani from implementing a circular which proposes to cut its budget by 50 per cent.

Justice James Makau issued the temporary orders following a suit filed by Law Society of Kenya (LSK) challenging the said circular issued on September 24.

The Judge further directed Judiciary Service Commission (JSC) to provide information and detailed report on how the budget cuts affect dispensation of the judiciary’s constitutional mandate including access to and administration of justice.

He further directed the acting Treasury CS to fully implement the duly approved Judiciary budget by drawing the necessary funds due from the Consolidated Fund.

GuidelinesActing Treasury CS Yatani on September 24 issued a circular to all CSs and accounting officers on guidelines for preparation of the financial year 2019/2020 supplementary estimates.

However, according to the lawyer’s body, the said circular which proposed drastic budgetary cuts on recurring and development budget of up to 50 per cent has resulted in great interference with the independence of the Judiciary.

Through lawyer Aileen Alusoi Ingati, LSK noted that following the circular, the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary issued an internal memo suspending all mobile court sessions and service weeks planned for October 2019 to December 2019.

“As a result of the internal memo, several notices were issued suspending various tribunal sessions across the country including the Rent Restrictions Tribunal sitting at Garissa, Nyeri and Embu, the Cooperative Tribunal, the National Environment Tribunal among others,” read the suit.

LSK has sued the Cabinet Secretary and the Attorney-General and also listed the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Senate, National Assembly and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) as interested parties.

In the affidavit by its Chief Executive Officer Mercy Wambua, the lawyer’s body argues that proposed drastic budget cuts by the acting CS could negatively affect the public’s right to access legal services and cripple their right to institute court proceedings.

“The acting treasury CS violated the constitution when he attempted to make unilateral decisions affecting the core operations of the Judiciary without regard to the constitution,” she said.

It is LSK’s contention that the move will also derail clearance of case backlog that had gathered pace and affects the Judiciary’s daily operations.

“Reduction of the Judiciary’s funds will greatly hamper the fight against corruption and Administration of Justice. It will also stall the development projects in the Judiciary,” she said in an affidavit.

According to LSK, the Judiciary plays a critical role in conflict resolution and delivery of justice to all, and without delay, through reconciliation, mediation and other dispute resolution mechanism.

“Cutting Judiciary funding will not only violate the Constitution but also impact negatively on its independence,” argued Wambua

Contravention of Law

The lawyer’s body also argue that the acting Treasury CS contravened the law when he cut the budget based on the revenue performance of the financial year 2018/19 without consideration of the actual estimates of the Judiciary expenditure which should only be considered and approved by the National Assembly.

LSK also accuse the Attorney General of failing to advise the acting Treasury CS on the illegality of the contents of the said circular.

Justice Makau directed status quo in respect of the Judiciary budget allocation do prevail pending the hearing and determination of the application.

The case will be mentioned on November 6 for further directions.

On Monday, a three-judge bench scheduled to sit at Nakuru high court in regard to the hearing of a case in which 600 settlers of Maasai Mau Forest are challenging an impending eviction was adjourned following lack of facilitation to the Judges.

“Due to Judiciary budget cut, we have been unable to facilitate the three judges... The parties will be notified of new dates through their advocates once directions are given,” read a notice from the court registrar. 

A similar message was posted at the Malindi Law Courts notice, advising parties with cases in the Employment and Labour Court that the matters will now be handled in Mombasa because of budget constraints. 

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