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Ruto and CJ fight case seeking establishment of High Courts in all counties

Rift Valley

Chief Justice Martha Koome and President William Ruto during the Head of State's inauguration at Kasarani Stadium on September 13 last year. [George Njunge, Standard]

President William Ruto and Chief Justice Martha Koome have opposed a petition seeking to have High Courts established in all counties.

The two, through State Counsel Fronicah Shirika, said lawyer Sharon Olili who filed the case has not satisfied the grounds required for his petition.

Ms Olili, through lawyers Kipkoech Ng'etich and Moses Kurgat, claims the Judiciary has failed to ensure reasonable access to its service across the country.

She named the president and the CJ as respondents in the case. The Law Society of Kenya is an interested party.

Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, in February, appointed a three-judge bench to determine the case.

The State Counsel, on Monday, came under sharp criticism for failing to file responses on time as directed.

Kipkoech, appearing before Justice Hillary Chemitei, noted the Office of the AG should be reminded it does not enjoy any special status in court and should comply with court directions.

The President and the Chief Justice noted that the orders sought are a violation of the Constitution as far as the independence of the Judiciary is concerned.

They said the Constitution does not provide for mandatory devolution of functions reserved for the national government to the counties.

They, however, noted that the rights alleged to have been violated can only be attained in a progressive manner.

"The petitioners have not proved that the 2nd respondent (President Ruto) is responsible for allocation of funds to the Judiciary," read the grounds of opposition in part.

Olili noted that the executive structures at the national and county levels have taken steps in ensuring reasonable access to their services hence relieving people burden of moving from one place to another in pursuit of the services.

 Petitioner, lawyer Sharon Olili. [File, Standard]

The advocate said Lamu, Mandera, Isiolo, Nandi, Samburu, Turkana, and Elgeyo Marakwet counties do not have High Courts. She said people in the counties want services of the High Court and are forced to travel to the nearest counties.

She added that the Chief Justice has failed to establish magistrate's courts in all the sub-counties.

Constituencies such as Marti, Garbatulla, Kuresoi South, Kuresoi North, Bahati, Turkana North, Loima, Turkana South, Tiaty, Turkana East, Kipkelion West and Kipkelion East, Bureti, Belgut, Njoro, Rongai, Subukia Gilgil have no magistrate courts.

The petition also seeks an order compelling the Chief Justice to immediately establish a High Court in every county and a magistrate's court in every sub-county within 18 months.

The executive, led by President she said, should also be compelled to immediately fund the Judiciary within 12 months to facilitate the construction of the courts.

"The President during his swearing-in on 13/09/2022, the second respondent promised to enhance the judiciary budget from Sh14 billion to Sh17 billion in the next financial year.

The offer of additional Sh3 billion by any public participation or needs assessment is an indication that Judiciary is an underdog neutered by the second respondent," read the petition.

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