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JSC to hold meeting amid looming judiciary crisis

Wednesday March 18 2020
amadi

Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JOSEPH WANGUI

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will tomorrow (Wednesday) hold a full sitting amid a looming crisis at the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal over lack of judges due to a protracted stalemate caused by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In the sitting, Chief Justice David Maraga’s forthcoming retirement is, however, not on the agenda.

This is despite some candidates, as well as players from different political divides, already lobbying for the seat.

JSC secretary Anne Amadi yesterday confirmed that Justice Maraga’s retirement is not part of the sitting’s agenda, although other inside sources had indicated the contrary.

The sources, speaking in confidence, had disclosed that his departure could be on the table since the commission has also listed his succession as an area of priority for funding in the next financial year.

But Ms Amadi, who is also Chief Registrar of the Judiciary, said the meeting will focus on recruitment and interviews of officials of the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ).

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The council is mandated with formulating policies relating to the administration of justice and mobilising resources for the efficient administration of justice.

Justice Maraga is expected to retire in January 2021 upon attainment of the age of 70 years, but those close to him say he is contemplating an early exit, possibly by October, like his predecessor Dr Willy Mutunga.

PARALYSIS

Should Justice Maraga opt to retire early and the ongoing stalemate on appointment of judges persists, it means operations of the Supreme Court are staring at a paralysis or a total halt for lack of quorum.

This is because Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu is no longer sitting as a petition challenging her suitability to serve is still pending at the JSC.

Further, Justice Jackton Ojwang is retiring from office. Last month the judge proceeded for his terminal leave of absence.

Justice Ojwang’s exit left the apex court operating with the bare minimum of five judges – Maraga, Smokin Wanjala, Mohamed Ibrahim, Isaac Lenaola and Njoki Ndung’u.

The petition facing Justice Mwilu was filed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

MWILU DRAMA

The JSC will meet in the third week of March this year to hear the petition, in which the DCI and the DPP want Justice Mwilu removed from office. The move, if successful, will technically throw her out of the Maraga succession race.

The determination to remove her is so serious that DCI boss George Kinoti and his colleague in criminal prosecutions Noordin Haji are witnesses against her.

DPP Haji, a former deputy spy chief, filed the petition at the JSC after a five-judge bench thwarted his attempt to charge Ms Mwilu in court in relation to alleged criminal conduct.

Justice Mwilu survived prosecution in May last year after the High Court ruled that the DCI had obtained evidence against her illegally by encroaching into her privacy.

Mr Haji claims Ms Mwilu is unfit to hold public office for failure to pay taxes to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), forgery and uttering a false document.

She was accused of involving herself in irregular sale and acquisition of property, including obtaining the execution of a security by false pretence.

RECRUITMENT

Ms Amadi, in the JSC’s Medium Term Framework report released last week, indicated that the commission intends to recruit one Supreme Court Judge and 30 other Judges.

The judges will serve in the High Court, Environment and Lands as well as the Employment and Labour Relations courts so as to enhance service delivery in the Judiciary.

JSC also plans to recruit 100 magistrates and 300 judicial officers and staff to address case backlog in the judiciary.

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