Kenya: Bill on CJ Tops to-Do List as MPs Resume Sittings

Members of Parliament are Tuesday debating a Bill that seeks to compel the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to present to the President at least three nominees for appointment as Chief Justice.

The National Assembly, which resumes its sittings today after a month-long recess will debate the Judicial Service (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which has been listed in this afternoon's Order Paper, according to a schedule released Monday.

The Bill sponsored by chairman of Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, Muturi Kigano, seeks to amend Section 30 of the JSC Act 2011 and proposes that commission conducts interviews and forwards three names of qualified people to the President to pick one whose name is to be approved by Parliament.

The Bill also proposes that recruitment of a new CJ should start at least six months before the expected retirement date or expiry of the term of the incumbent.

The Bill, which has already undergone first reading and public participation, states that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) shall constitute a panel of five persons which shall shortlist persons for nomination by the commission.

Next steps

The Bill states that the secretary of the panel shall, within three days of the commission's vote, forward the names of three qualified persons to the President.

The President is then required, within 14 days of the receipt of the names, to forward the name of one person to the National Assembly for approval.

The National Assembly is, within 21 days, expected to vote and consider the nominee forwarded by the President.

If the MPs approve the nominee for the position of either Chief Justice or their deputy, the Speaker shall forward the name to the President for formal appointment.

"Where a nominee is rejected by the National Assembly, the President shall within seven days submit a fresh nominee amongst the three persons shortlisted and forwarded by the commission," reads the Bill.

"If the National Assembly rejects all of the subsequent nominees submitted by the President, the commission shall constitute a different selection panel and conduct the recruitment afresh," reads the Bill.

LSK's opposition

However, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) rejected the Bill upon its publication last year, saying it will deny the JSC power in the recruitment of a Chief Justice.

Also set to be considered by MPs tomorrow is the National Hospital Insurance Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which seeks to convert NHIF into a national health insurance scheme that will make it compulsory for Kenyans over 18 years to make a compulsory contribution of Sh500 in a remodelled Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme for outpatient and inpatient services, including maternity, dialysis, cancer treatment and surgery.

"The Bill proposes to insert a new Section 15A to make it mandatory for any person who has attained the age of 18 years and is not a beneficiary, to register as a member of the fund," states the memorandum of the Bill.

Employers, on the other hand, will be required to make a contribution to the fund equal to that of the employee and not deduct the same from employees' salaries, if proposals to amend Section 15 of the NHIF Act are adopted.

Also listed for debate by MPs is the Parliamentary Pensions (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to establish a voluntary post-retirement medical scheme for MPs.

The scheme will be administered by the MPs' employer, the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).

Others Bills set to be considered by MPs are the Breastfeeding mothers Bill, 2019; Alcoholic drinks control (Amendment) Bill, 2019; Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill; County Government (Amendment) Bill, 2018; and the Landlord and Tenant Bill, 2021.

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