By ISAIAH LUCHELI

The High Court has suspended the operations of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board for 14 days following a suit filed by a human rights body.

High Court judges Mohamed Warsame and George Odunga ruled that the issues raised by the Centre for Human Rights Democracy were not trifling, and added that the court had adequate powers to grant relief in the event of contravention. 

Although Justice George Kimondo dissented to the ruling, the three-judge Bench, however, agreed that the suit be placed before Chief Justice Willy Mutunga as soon as possible to expand its current composition to five.

“The issues raised are weighty and substantial and in order to give the matter a fair and comprehensive interpretation, we think the composition of the bench be enlarged to five,” they ruled in the suit where Judges Mohamed Ibrahim and Roselyne Nambuye are enjoined as interested parties.

Warsame and Odunga in their ruling explained that they had heard counsel for the parties and had taken into account the issues raised in chamber sermons and the petition and it would be fair to grant the orders sought for 14 days.

The petitioners through lawyers John Khaminwa, Katwa Kigen and Paul Gicheru had submitted that the vetting of judges and magistrates was within one year since it began hence the amendment to extend the period was unconstitutional.

The judges noted there was no corresponding extension of the term of the board members hence any proceedings determined by the board after the expiry of their mandate was null and void.

However, in his dissenting ruling, Kimondo said while the matters raised in the petition were weighty, there was undeniable great public interest in the implementation of the Constitution that must override private right or interest to halt possible prejudice to the administration of justice.

“There is a legitimate public expectation that the vetting process must continue and we must take judicial notice of the fact that the board has begun its work; that it has timelines within which to complete its work, and that considerable public funds have been invested into the process,” said Kimondo.

“We recognise and it is our view that under article 23 (3) (c), the court has powers to grant conservatory orders at any stage of the proceedings if it deemed fit to do so. We have considered the submissions by counsel from both parties and we form a peremptory view that matters raised are not frivolous and need further inquiry,” they said.

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High Court judges vetting