Judges may lose jobs in MPs row

Sunday February 22 2015

Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board chairman Sharad Rao (right) and the board’s chief executive officer Reuben Chirchir address journalists outside the Supreme Court on November 5, 2014. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU

Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board chairman Sharad Rao (right) and the board’s chief executive officer, Reuben Chirchir, address journalists outside the Supreme Court on November 5, 2014. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By PATRICK LANG'AT
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Two High Court judges and 70 senior magistrates might lose their jobs because of failure by Parliament to amend a key law.

The team that vets judicial officers wants the National Assembly to delete a clause that prevents them from vetting the 72 before the board’s mandate expires in December this year.

The judicial officers stand to lose their positions if they will not have been vetted before the board’s deadline.

The Judges and Magistrates Vetting Act states that a judge who will not have been vetted by the time the board ceases to exist, stands unsuitable to serve in the Judiciary.

The Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board’s request to have the March 28, 2013 deadline for vetting judicial officers above the rank of principal magistrate extended was quashed by the National Assembly.

When Parliament amended the Act to extend the board’s tenure to December 31 this year, Section 23(2) of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Act 2011, which set the deadline for vetting of senior judges, was left intact.

Chairman Sharad Rao said the board’s hands were tied until the law is amended.

“We cannot vet them unless the law allows us to. As a board, we do not want to do what we are telling Kenyans not to do,” he told Nation in a telephone interview yesterday.

END OF TERM

He added: “We believe we can finish vetting them before the end of our term once the National Assembly gives us the green light.”

The board is in Kisumu for six weeks to vet 60 magistrates from the larger western Kenya. It has since interviewed 40 of them.

The board insists that it should vet the judges even if time had elapsed.

“ . . . Though their vetting should have been finalised by March 28, 2013, the law did not purport to curtail that jurisdiction,” the board said in its determination of the review applications by the judges recently.