A ruling on a bankruptcy case against a media owner was the main focus of the first hearing conducted in public by the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board.
Lady Justice Martha Koome of the Court of Appeal on Wednesday appeared before the board and defended herself against accusations that she had arbitrarily ruled against Mr SK Macharia last year.
Mr Macharia had argued that Justice Koome did not competently look back at the root cause of the case before she delivered her ruling.
However, the judge said she had thoroughly reviewed all submissions and reached an informed decision.
Mr Macharia and the judges judge’s lawyer George Oraro kept the members of the board glued on their seats for more than two hours in a heated verbal exchange.
Justice Koome ruled in January last year that Mr Macharia and his wife, Purity Gathoni, had defaulted in paying back Sh500,000 they owed Mr Livingstone Ndung’u Waithaka since 1986 when they sold him a non-existent plot in Nairobi’s Industrial Area.
She ruled in favour of a bankruptcy case brought against the two by Mr Waithaka’s Ocean Freight Transport Company Limited.
The case arose from a ruling by Lady Justice Kalpana Rawal that had given a decree ordering the couple to pay the debt with an interest of 19 per cent compounded monthly from December 1986.
But Mr Macharia, the owner of Citizen TV and a number of radio stations, did not heed the decree, forcing Mr Waithaka to file bankruptcy proceedings against him.
At the commencement of the case, it was estimated that the debt had grown to Sh34.8 million.
During the hearing held at Anniversary Towers in Nairobi, Mr Macharia maintained that Justice Rawal’s wording in the decree was “not clear on applicable interest rates”.
But Justice Koome said Mr Macharia had not applied for the ruling to be set aside or appealed against Justice Rawal’s verdict and therefore wholly based her judgement on the existing decree as well as other pertinent submissions on the case.
Most of the session revolved around Justice Rawal’s verdict and at one time the board asked Mr Macharia to refer only to evidence before it.
The vetting board chair Sharad Rao said Mr Macharia may be called again during Justice Rawal’s vetting given the claims he made about her ruling.