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Tribunal on judge Ojwang to begin work in June

Sunday May 19 2019

Jackton Ojwang

Supreme Court judge Jackton Ojwang. He is battling misconduct allegations. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

WALTER MENYA
By WALTER MENYA
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The tribunal formed to look into the conduct of suspended Supreme Court judge Jackton Ojwang will begin formal hearings in mid-June, according to Mr Peter Kariuki, one of the two secretaries of the panel.

Mr Kariuki told the Sunday Nation that Justice Ojwang has been formally served with the charges levelled against him.

In the meantime, he added, the tribunal is undertaking investigations into the allegations against the judge and engaging with witnesses.

“The tribunal requested and has formally received the petition from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). It has spent time studying it,” Mr Kariuki said.

“Equally, the assisting counsel have looked at the bundle of documents and have been able to extract the allegations against the judge. Justice Ojwang has been formally served with the allegations as derived from the petition.”

MEMBERS

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Though the tribunal has no specific timeline within which to conclude its work, the gazette notice appointing it had asked its members to “prepare and submit a report and its recommendations thereon to me (President Uhuru Kenyatta) expeditiously”.

Mr Kenyatta announced the suspension of Justice Ojwang in the March 29 Kenya Gazette and subsequently appointed Justice Alnashir Visram to chair the tribunal to look into the allegations against the Supreme Court judge.

Members of the tribunal are retired judge Festus Azangalala, Mr Ambrose Weda, a former member of National Environment Tribunal (NET), Mr Andrew Bahati Mwamuye, Ms Lucy Kambuni, Ms Sylvia Wanjiku Muchiri and Ms Amina Abdalla.

The tribunal also has Mr Paul Nyamodi and Ms Stella Munyi as lead assisting counsel and assisting counsel respectively.

Mr Kariuki and Mr Josiah Musili are the joint secretaries.

The tribunal, which was sworn in by Chief Justice David Maraga on April 8, started its work immediately.

SUMMONED

According to Mr Kariuki, the tribunal’s ongoing investigations and engagement with witnesses “shall as a matter of course involve taking of statements”.

“The statements will equally be furnished to the judge. This should take the work programme of the tribunal into early June,” Mr Kariuki went on.

“It is expected that the formal hearings will take place approximately from the middle of June.”

The JSC recommended the removal of Justice Ojwang when he refused to appear before the commission to respond to allegations levelled against him by nine petitioners.

In the statement read by JSC chairperson David Maraga, the commission said it had deliberated and found that the petition filed against the judge “has disclosed sufficient grounds to warrant a recommendation to the President to set up a tribunal for the removal of the judge”.

Explaining why he did not appear before the committee, Justice Ojwang said the “well-known JSC committee members bear ill-intent against me”.

Prof Ojwang has however indicated that he will cooperate with the tribunal.

PROCEEDINGS

Mr Maraga said the petition detailed instances the petitioners believed constituted grounds of misconduct, impropriety, conflict of interest and breach of judicial code of conduct, particularly where Justice Ojwang chose to sit with other judges of the Supreme Court in a petition filed by nine residents of Migori against Town Council of Awendo.

He said despite being closely associated with Migori County Governor Okoth Obado, Justice Ojwang was on the bench.

In conducting the hearings, the judge will have a say on whether the proceedings should be open or behind closed doors.

Former Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza and Justice Philip Tunoi chose to have their hearings held in public.