You are out of order sir, furious Maraga tells Uhuru

Chief Justice David Maraga addresses the press outside the Supreme Court yesterday. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

For the umpteenth time, Chief Justice David Maraga descended on President Uhuru Kenyatta, accusing him of a litany of things among them failure to appoint 41 judges and continued defiance of court orders.

In a bare knuckle address to the nation, Maraga declared that the president is out of order for disobeying two court orders on the appointment of 41 judges and for failing to reign in his Executive, which continues to violate the rights of thousands of people.

Bad blood

According to the CJ, it is a mockery for the president and his government to demand that citizens obey its laws when they disobey the law themselves and exposing members of the public to suffering as a result of the willful defiance of court orders.

“This disregard of court orders by the president is part of the pattern by the Executive. I must remind the president that he swore to defend the Constitution and the laws of Kenya, he must demonstrate his respect for the law by complying with court orders,” said Maraga.

Maraga’s outburst is likely to renew his rivalry and bad blood with the Executive, coming just a few days after he dismissed an Executive Order released by President Kenyatta which sought to place the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) under a State department.

The CJ had also repeatedly complained of being undermined by the government and even threatened to boycott some State functions.

But early in the year during the launch of the State of the Judiciary Report, the president and CJ had a truce after bad blood thought to have originated from the Supreme Court’s cancellation of Uhuru’s victory in the 2017 elections.

But yesterday, a fuming Maraga accused the president of undermining the Judiciary by refusing to appoint the judges and frustrating his efforts to have a meeting to iron out their differences.

“The president knows that I have for a long time unsuccessfully sought an appointment to discuss the issues, leaving me with no option but to raise them in public. It will be a dereliction of my duty if I do not raise the public agonies in my domain,” he said.

Failure by the president to appoint and swear in the 41 judges nominated to the Court of Appeal, Environment and Land Court and the Employment and Labour Relations Court, he said, is hurting the administration of justice and members of the public who will have to wait longer for their cases.

To demonstrate the gravity of the matter, the CJ said any person filing a land case now will have to wait until 2022 for the case to heard given that the Environment and Lands Court only has 33 judges against a case backlog of 16,457.

Integrity issues

He added that the situation is worse at the Court of Appeal which has only 15 judges against a caseload of 7,315, and the Employment Court which has 12 judges against a caseload of 13,197.

“Shortage of judges and near paralysis of court operations has been caused by President Kenyatta’s persistent refusal to swear the judges despite two court orders requiring him to do so within 14 days,” said Maraga.

Controversy over the appointment of the 41 judges begun in July last year after the JSC recommended the names to the president for appointment. Eleven of the judges were appointed to Court of Appeal, 20 to the lands court and 10 to the employment court.

President Kenyatta, however, rejected the nominees on grounds that some of them had questionable integrity issues. In February, High Court Judges Lydiah Achode, James Makau and Chacha Mwita declared that the president has no power to reject the names and ordered that he appoints and swears in the judges within 14 days.

Maraga said the president’s reasons for rejecting the names over integrity issues were dismissed by the High Court and that the continued defiance of the court order is an act of impunity.

The CJ took a swipe at the government for neglecting to settle dozens of court decrees amounting to over Sh1 billion, stating that some of the victims have suffered paraplegic injuries in the hands of the State. He also cited the eviction of thousands of people from disputed land in Kariobangi North despite a court order stopping the ejection, stating that it was immoral for the Government to subject the citizens to suffering and exposing them to coronavirus.

“Attempts to compel State agencies to comply with the orders are always rebuffed with the contemptuous ‘uta do’ attitude. How can we expect God to bless our nation when we are so callous to the most desperate in our society,” said Maraga.