4 October 2012

Kenya: Judges, Magistrates Blast Vetting Board

An association of judicial officers yesterday waded into the fight between the judges and vetting board.

The Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association criticised the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board over its stand to ignore a court order stopping its work.

"We are dismayed by the announcement by the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board that they would disregard and disobey a court order issued against the Board by Judges Mohammed Warsame and George Odunga," the association said in a statement sent to newsrooms.

The association accused the board of "waging unfair attack" on judges who were merely discharging their duties as assigned to them by the Chief Justice.

"The Board very well knows that discussing a matter that is before court and that is pending determination and casting aspersions against the Judge in a press conference is most prejudicial," said justice Martha Koome who is the KMJA chairperson.

KMJA said the board is engaging in double standards by declining to obey court when it declared appeal judge Samuel Bosire for disobeying a court order when he was serving as chairman of Goldenberg commission inquiry.

The statement by KMJA came two days after the vetting board, through its chairperson Sharad Rao, announced its stand to ignore a court order.

Rao had said the constitution is clear that the decisions by the board is not subject to a court review and therefore the court order is invalid.

"The board wishes to emphasize that it does not accept that the Judiciary has the jurisdiction to sit in judgment over its work," Rao had said.

The order in question arose out of a case filed by a lobby group from Eldoret challenging the mandate of the board. In the case, the group said since the mandate of the board expired on May 23, the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Act has never been amended to extend the time. Parliament only amended Section 2(2) of the Act, which does not extend the time set out in Section 22(1).

And yesterday KMJA said the vetting Act which provided that the decision by board cannot be challenged in court did not take away the supervisory jurisdiction of high court thereby allowing board to infringe on human rights of judges in the course of vetting.

The association is of the view that the vetting board should put its defense in the case before court and stop inciting Kenyans to disobey the law.

"Judges too are human beings and the fact that they are judges they can seek legal redress, did the Board expect the judges to file their cases in another country so that we are not seen to be referees in our course?" the statement said.

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