Pay judges in 90 days or face jail, court orders Judiciary registrar

When Winfridah Mokaya Boyani took oath after being appointed Chief Registrar of the Judiciary. [Judiciary, X]

The High Court has called out the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary (CRJ) Fridah Mokaya for disobeying court orders to match judges' salaries.

Justice Stephen Rayola in his ruling gave the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and CRJ a 90-day grace period to match pay for all judges who were recruited from outside the Judiciary to those who were employed from within.

Nevertheless, Justice Rayola suspended sentencing Mokaya for the same period to give her time to execute the order. 

The judge observed that the  CRJ was new in the office and needed time to adjust to her new role.

“To the extent that there was no compromise and the valid decree sought to be enforced has been pending from 2021, clearly shows a willful pattern of procrastination and willful design and or refusal to comply with the said court order. To that extent, the 2nd respondent is guilty as charged and is in contempt of the aforestated orders,” said Rayola.

In the case, Mokaya’s predecessor Ann Amadi had told the court that JSC had reached out to the Kenya Judges Welfare Association (KJWA) and it was agreed that those who were appointed in 2014 would get Sh969,742 from December 1, 2021.

At the same time, the former CRJ told the court that the agreement with the association was that those who were appointed in 2015 and 2016 would get Sh938,519 and Sh907,279 respectively.

In the meantime, she also explained that arrears would be paid from December 18, 2019.

However, Justice Robert Limo disowned Amadi’s claims arguing that the meeting held between some of the affected judges and JSC on March 14, 2021 and November 24, 2021 did not address the issues in the judgment.

According to Limo, the court had in 2020 ruled that all Judges should be treated equally upon appointment. Justice Patrick Otieno also distanced the association from the alleged agreement.

The KJWA chair told the court that there was no agreement as the association neither met or sat with the commission.

He stated that all affected judges were in a separate WhatsApp group called ‘Crusaders for Justice’ and none of them authorised anyone to negotiate with the commission on their behalf.

The application to punish the registrar and Chief Justice Martha Koome for alleged defiance was filed by activist Sollo Nzuki.

Through his lawyer Cecil Miller, Nzuki argued that despite then High Court Judge George Odunga ordering the commission to match the salaries, it went silent on the same.

Backdate salaries

Justice Odunga, now a Court of Appeal Judge, ordered the commission to equalize salaries for all the affected judges and backdate the same to the date each one of them was appointed.

He has again ordered that JSC and Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to honour the court orders after finding that the aggrieved judges had a legitimate claim to warrant the court to force the two commissions to act.

“In the premises, I hereby issue an order of mandamus compelling the first respondent herein to implement and effect the decree regarding the judgment of this court, second respondent is similarly directed to take the necessary steps within its mandate to facilitate the satisfaction of the said decree,” ruled Justice Odunga.

In the case, Nzuki through his lawyer explained that JSC and SRC never appealed the verdict but remained quiet.

JSC in its reply explained that it was the work of SRC to determine how much judges should earn adding that it was only required to identify those who are affected and how much they ought to be paid.

The SRC did not respond.

Judges who join the Bench from private practice earn a salary of Sh532,500 per month and a non-practicing allowance of Sh13,500. On the other hand, a magistrate who becomes a judge gets Sh632,000 together with a similar allowance as the outsiders.

On December 18, Justice Odunga ruled that it was discriminatory for lawyers appointed to the Bench from private practice to get lower pay than those promoted from within the Judiciary, and ordered SRC to harmonize their pay.

 “Being an appointment, whether one comes from within or outside the Judiciary, they are at par in so far as their remuneration is concerned. None should be disadvantaged based on where he or she comes from,” ruled Justice Odunga.

According to the judge, creating a disparity between those serving in the Judiciary and those not serving gives an added advantage to those already in the judicial system without any legal basis.

His decision came as a relief for some judges who were appointed from legal practice after the promulgation of
Apart from the salaries, judges are entitled to other benefits such as a vehicle, security, medical, airtime, security of tenure as well as retirement at 70 years all of which are non-remunerative.