You can’t reprimand Njoki, court tells Judicial Service Commission
Bernice Mbugua @Bernice Mbugua
The High Court yesterday nullified the decision of Judicial Service Commission to reprimand Supreme Court judge Njoki Ndung’u over alleged misconduct in 2016.
Justice Weldon Korir ruled that JSC does not have disciplinary powers over judges in the current constitutional set-up.
“JSC crossed its constitutional and statutory boundaries which limits its powers to determining the merits of the complaint against a judge for the sole purpose of determining whether the petition should be sent to the President,” he ruled.
Justice Njoki moved to the High Court accusing JSC of trampling her constitutional rights when it found her conduct ‘unbecoming of a judge of the Supreme Court’ during the hearing of an election petition by Kanu politician Nick Salat in 2016.
The Judge sought interpretation on the parameters through which JSC can institute disciplinary proceedings against a judge.
JSC had formed a special committee to investigate her on February 29, 2016, following a complaint by former Law Society of Kenya (LSK) chief executive Apollo Mboya.
The committee in its finding found Njoki’s conduct “unbecoming of a judge of the Supreme Court and amounts to misconduct” but did not warrant the recommendation for the formation of a tribunal by the President.
The judge in her petition however argued that by finding her guilty of misconduct it was unfair since the commission did not even inform her of the accusations against her.
“There was no lawful basis upon which I was not afforded even the most rudimentary hearing in line with the requirements of the Constitution and statute,” she had claimed.
Justice Korir agreed with Njoki in that JSC violated the Constitution by exercising the power of discipline and punishment which it did not have.
“The purported disciplinary action taken against the judge of the Supreme Court by the JSC is unlawful and unconstitutional,” he ruled.
“JSC has no authority to discipline a judge, it follows that it cannot sanction a judge. An admonition or a reprimand is the same thing,” he said.
Koris said that upon perusing the allegations arising from the decision in the Salat case, JSC ought to have determined that it had no jurisdiction to entertain Mboya’s additional grounds.
“A Declaration is hereby issued that the JSC is not mandated or required to administer any form of discipline against judges of the superior courts of Kenya and any such purported discipline such as admonishment is unconstitutional and is therefore null and void,” he ruled.
Justice Korir further declared that the decision by JSC to purport to investigate Justice Njoki on the matters raised in Apollo Mboya’s petition as “further grounds” was unreasonable, unfair, unprocedural and unlawful.