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Judicial Service Commission defies Parliamentary Justice Committee orders over Judiciary Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei’s saga

Judiciary Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei addressing the Press at the Supreme Court after she was sent on compulsory leave. [Photo: File/Standard]

BY WAHOME THUKU

NAIROBI; KENYA: The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will not honour summons by the Parliamentary Justice Committee over the saga involving Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Gladys Shollei.

That decision, though not publicly communicated was arrived at during an all-day meeting of all the JSC members on Monday.

Sources said the decision was taken to safeguard the independence of the JSC and separation of powers as set out in the constitution.

The decision which should be communicated to the committee before Thursday will put the JSC on a fresh supremacy showdown with Parliament.

The Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs has summoned the JSC and three of its 11 members to shed light on allegations made before it by Ms Shollei who was sent on compulsory leave last week.

Shollei was sent on 15-day forced leave by the JSC pending investigations into allegations of financial impropriety against her.

Five members of the commission voted for the suspension and four against it. Two members, Justice Isaac Lenaola and Attorney General Githu Muigai were not present.

Mrs Shollei appeared before the committee on Wednesday and gave detailed account of her work and what she thought was the reason for the commission to send her on compulsory leave.

On Thursday she filed an application at the High Court and secured orders stopping the commission from commencing disciplinary action against her.

She named three JSC members Ahmednassir Abdulahi, Justice Mohamed Warsame and Chief Magistrate Emily Ominde as those who have frustrated her work as Chief Registrar and who had instigated the action against her.

Mrs Shollei maintains that she was never informed of the reasons for sending her on leave and that there is no financial improprieties in the judiciary. The case is set to be heard on Tuesday morning.

The Parliamentary committee summoned the JSC and the three members to respond to the allegations made against them.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga who is the JSC chairman convened Monday’s meeting at the Supreme Court to discuss the summons and the court case.

In a brief statement the commission said it would formally communicate its resolution to Parliament and also make it public.

The JSC faced a dilemma on whether to obey the summons or to stand by Article 249 of the constitution which gives it and other constitutional commissions independence.

The Article provides that the commissions which include the JSC are independent and not subject to direction or control by any person or authority.

But the same Article gives similar autonomy to other commissions some of which have previously been summoned before other committees of Parliament and complied.

Some commissioners are of the view that complying with the summons would set a bad precedent and would undermine the doctrine of separation of powers.

However, the Parliamentary committee insists that they are the custodians of public supervision of the other two organs of government, executive and the judiciary and the JSC members must obey the summons.

Parliament is involved in the approving the names of the nominees for the appointments as JSC members.

Similarly the National Assembly is involved in any action to remove a member of the JSC from office. The National Assembly should receive a petition for such removal, consider it and if satisfied it has merit, send it to the President to constitute a tribunal to investigate the member.