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Koome: Judicial independence under attack

 Chief Justice Martha Koome speaks when she inaugurated the new Maralal Law Courts building in Turkana County. [File, Standard]

Chief Justice Martha Koome has said independent institutions have encroached on the terrain reserved for the judiciary and the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC) posing challenges in facilitating the administration of justice.

Justice Koome also noted that the Judiciary Fund was not operating optimally due to bureaucratic bottlenecks and roadblocks erected by the Controller of Budget.

In a speech presented at the annual judges' colloquium at the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort in Mombasa, Wednesday, Koome also noted that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission has also encroached on the JSC's mandate to review and make recommendations on the conditions of service of staff of the judiciary, falling outside remuneration and benefits for state officers.

"We are already engaging robustly with these institutions with a view of resolving these misunderstandings in line with the Constitution," she said.

Her statement was read by Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, who challenged the judges to support the social transformation of the judiciary through access to justice.

Internally, the CJ said the judiciary still has challenges relating to enhancing public confidence and trust in judicial processes. She said confidence is enhanced when court decisions are predictable and consistent.

"Individuals and entities should anticipate how a court will rule on a particular legal issue or case and the extent to which similar cases are decided similarly over time," she noted.

Legal certainty

"This promotes legal certainty and helps people make informed decisions, both in their personal lives and in business transactions. Similar cases with similar facts and legal issues should be decided in a similar manner by the courts," she added.

She observed one of the emerging areas of complaints to the JSC and the Office of the Judiciary Ombudsperson relates to predictability and consistency in legal decisions, adding that this may arise when a court makes no effort to strike a balance between predictability and flexibility.

Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi said although the Sh21 billion allocated to the judiciary in the current financial year was below the resource requirement of Sh40 billion it was much better compared to the last 10 years.

"We are also optimistic that we can work with the National Assembly to increase the allocation during the next supplementary estimates," she added.

Chairman of the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee George Murugara pledged to support the independence of the judiciary to ensure it delivered on its mandate. "Parliament will approach the judiciary as an independent institution within the perimeters of the Constitution," he said.

Supreme Court judge and director of the Kenya Judiciary Academy Smokin Wanjala said KJA has embarked on a plan to establish its own institute on a 55-acre land at Ngong to facilitate training.

The colloquium ends on September 8.

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