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Visram's past judicial rulings haunt his bid for CJ post

By | Updated Wed, May 4th 2011 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Moses Njagih

Three controversial rulings an appellate judge made returned to haunt him as the search for the next Chief Justice kicked-off.

Court of Appeal Judge, Justice Alnashir Visram was at pains to defend judgements he made in past cases involving key political personalities in the country. The judge was taken to task over his decision to deny the Attorney General a chance to lodge an appeal against the acquittal of Internal Security Minister, George Saitoti in the Goldenberg case, a move that effectively let off the Kajiado North MP from the country’s biggest scandal.

Court of Appeal Judge, Justice Alnashir Visram, one of the candidates fighting it out for the Chief Justice position during an interview at the Judicial Service Commission office Tuesday. [PHOTO: AGNES RUBE/STANDARD]

Former Law Society of Kenya Chairman, Abdulahi Ahmednasir demanded to know why the judge failed to grant the AG a chance to appeal against the decision, despite knowing the matter was of national importance.

Justice Visram was the first candidate, among those seeking the position of Chief Justice, to appear before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) during interviews to replace former Head of Judiciary, Justice Evan Gicheru. JSC members also took the judge to task over the Sh30 million award he ordered paid to former Keiyo South MP, Nicholas Biwott as damages in a defamation suit against author Andrew Morton.

Attorney General Amos Wako, who is a member of the commission, and Ahmednasir demanded to know if the award was because of the social standing of the plaintiff.

But the judge defended the award, saying it was based on his assessment of the damage, from the evidence presented. "I am convinced that I would have made a similar award even if the plaintiff was any other person other than Biwott. My decision was never influenced by anything. It was based purely on the evidence that was presented before me," said Justice Visram.

On the Prof Saitoti case, the judge said the AG should have sought the quashing of his order from a three-judge Court of Appeal Bench if he felt aggrieved by his ruling.

He said he had taken into account the request by the AG alongside that of Saitoti and was not convinced there was need for Wako to extend time for the appeal.

"My contention was what the AG would do within the short time that he wanted to file an appeal out of time yet he had not done so for the eight years that the matter had been pending. But if the AG was dissatisfied, he had a recourse, the matter was not shut out," said Visram.

Ahmednasir asked the judge whether it was not obvious that he favoured powerful litigants and thus was the wrong candidate for the CJ’s position. But the judge reiterated his position he acted from the evidence presented before him, arguing he was not cowered by personalities.

He said that if appointed, he would spearhead reforms in the Judiciary by addressing the problems bedeviling the institution, which has made many Kenyans lose confidence in it.

"It is no doubt that we have a credibility crisis in the Judiciary with the public viewing the institution as incompetent, inept and corrupt. My priority would be to address these things," he said.

Other members of the JSC in the panel were Christine Mango, who chaired the session, Emily Ominde, Justice Isaac Lenaola, Titus Gateere and Florence Mwangangi.



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