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New Bill will check judges’ temper

By | Feb 16th 2011 | 3 min read

By Peter Opiyo and David Ochami

Judges who channel their anger to the people they serve justice to will be put under check.

While concluding debate on the Judicial Services Bill, Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo said the clause on checking temperament of judges is crucial and guided by international best practice.

"A judge must channel anger appropriately, therefore this clause on temperament is crucial since it is guided by international best practice," said Mr Mutula.

The minister, while responding to MPs’ concerns also said the Bill would be amended to include provision for county judges, so that each of the 47 counties has a seat for the High Court judge.

The Bill is among legislation expected to transform the Judiciary. It improves the provision of judicial services and administration of justice by reconstituting and incorporating the Judicial Service Commission.

It also gives the Judiciary financial autonomy and ensures a co-ordinated, efficient and consultative approach in the administration of justice. Mutula said judges short-listed for jobs would be privately interviewed to shield them from the embarrassment they might undergo should they lose positions they applied for. Conducting such interviews in public, Mutula said, might affect the judges in question, as most of them prefer private lives.

Foreign judges

Advertisements for vacancies in the High Court, he said, would be done on the Government website as well as the Kenya Gazette.

Such action, Mutula pointed out, would avoid the current situation where nominations to four key constitutional offices have raised concerns. To effectively dispense justice, the minister told MPs it would be imperative to incorporate the Witness Protection Agency in the National Council on the Administration of Justice. Mutula said the inclusion of foreign judges is also crucial in the vetting of judges.

Last week, Parliament opposed what MPs termed as ‘sweeping powers’ vested on the Executive to appoint a panel to vet judges and other judicial officers in the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Bill 2011. MPs objected to a provision that allows the President and the PM to disregard the list from the PSC and name candidates from elsewhere and also complained the final list of nine proposed in the Bill are actually appointees of the Executive.

"Upon what basis did the minister think he can disregard the opinion of the CIC?" Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara asked.

Amendments to the offensive section of the Bill were not ready for discussion in the House yesterday, although they were expected.

The Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution objected to this Executive discretion in a previous Bill that was withdrawn from Parliament and advised Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo to delete or amend it appropriately.

MPs described the 2003 surgery on the Judiciary as ‘ethnic cleansing’ that only "emasculated" the Bench. Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang’ said the new Chief Justice must undergo vetting for propriety if picked from the current Bench.

Define ‘consultations’

Lands Minister James Orengo said Kenya’s new CJ must be acceptable to most Kenyans. MPs also said the Bill should define ‘consultation’ in relation to public appointments.

The Bill, which MPs began debating last Tuesday, proposes a panel of nine, including three foreigners picked from a list prepared by the Public Service Commission out of which the President makes formal appointments after consultations with the Prime Minister.

He added that the retention of the offensive clauses goes against the spirit of the Constitution.

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