You can’t reprimand Njoki, court tells Judicial Service Commission

Friday, May 15th, 2020 00:00 |
Supreme Court judge Njoki Ndung’u. Photo/PD/FILE

 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.

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