24 February 2011

Kenya: MPs Pass Judicial Bill

Nairobi — Parliament has approved the second Bill to roll-out the new Constitution after numerous amendments.

The Judicial Service Bill, 2011 that seeks a reformed Judiciary was endorsed in Parliament.

It joins the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Bill, 2011 in the Parliament's out-tray to the President. There were less than 30 MPs when the Bill finally sailed through the Third Reading late Wednesday.

"With this Third Reading, the two principals will have the opportunity to appoint new judges and that will change the Judiciary tremendously," said Mr Mutula Kilonzo, the Justice minister.

Temporary Deputy Speaker Philip Kaloki presided over the Bill.

The Bill seeks to speed up the provision of judicial services and administration of justice in the Judiciary. It effectively seeks to provide for the operation of the newly-constituted Judicial Service Commission.

It is also explicit in the way it pushes for the sprucing up of the Judiciary, and "clearly articulating the procedure for appointment, and removal of judges, and discipline of other judicial officers and staff."

Many of the amendments were geared towards bringing the Bill in line with the new Constitution, and involved the replacement of the words "minister" with "Cabinet Secretary", "permanent secretary" with "principal secretary", "commissioner of police" with "Inspector General" and "district" with "county".

The MPs did not understand why or how the seemingly obvious errors passed through the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution and the Attorney General's office undetected, even after the Bill was withdrawn early this year to "align it to the new Constitution".

MPs Millie Odhiambo (nominated, ODM), Danson Mungatana (Garsen, Narc Kenya), Alfred Sambu (Webuye, ODM) and Nicholas Gumbo (Rarieda, ODM) joined the Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo in fine-tuning the Bill.

The Bill also enhances the Commission's as well as the Judiciary's operational and financial autonomy. To do this, the Judicial Service Commission and the Judiciary will have separate votes when it comes to the disbursement of funds, each will manage its funds and submit audited accounts to Parliament.

The key change in the Bill was the approval of county judges to be established in each of the 47 counties.

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