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Defiant Maraga takes cash war to Executive

By Paul Ogemba | November 5th 2019 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Chief Justice David Maraga speaks outside the Supreme Court yesterday. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Chief Justice David Maraga has hit out at the Executive for slashing the Judiciary’s budget, which has led to withdrawal of core services.

Addressing the press at the Supreme Court yesterday, a furious Maraga told Kenyans to brace for delays in handling of cases and lack of basic services unless the Treasury rescinds its decision to cut the Judiciary’s budget by Sh3 billion.

“Judges will not have money to fuel their vehicles, we will not have mobile courts, we will not have the Court of Appeal circuits, we will not be able to pay for wi-fi for e-filing and e-payments and plans to automate the anti-corruption courts have fallen by the wayside,” he said.

The judge said the court annexed mediation that resolves disputes involving billions of shillings will not be sitting thus ‘holding the economy to ransom’.

Maraga added that they had shelved plans to set up virtual courts outside the country to hasten mediation of cases.

Over 15,000 cases were suspended last week after dozens of courts shut down across the country due to the crippling budget cut.

Out of these, 10,000 were pending cases in tribunals that include matters on rent restrictions, business premises and cooperatives. Also affected were 5,598 cases in mobile courts around the country.

Significantly, all benches constituted to hear cases – which often comprise three to five judges – are also not sitting.

Also suspended indefinitely is the Service Week, which judges and magistrates use to speed up hearing of cases to clear backlog.

The Treasury slashed Judiciary’s budget by Sh3 billion last month, citing revenue shortfalls and need to raise funds for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda.

The Judiciary had requested Sh31.2 billion but Parliament allocated it Sh14.5 billion, which Treasury cut to Sh11.5 billion.

The Treasury also squeezed Sh131 billion from different Government agencies. 

Maraga claimed that tenderpreneurs and graft cartels were unhappy with the Judiciary for standing in their way and preventing them from fleecing the economy hence the move to slash the budget.

The judge also sensationally claimed that he was aware of plans by unnamed Cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries and senior government officials to plot his removal from office.

The tough-talking CJ said he would start boycotting State functions unless the Executive recognised his stature to avoid the humiliation he said he was subjected to during Mashujaa Day celebrations when he had to access the VIP area through the back door.

Remove Maraga

“They have been saying that the CJ must be removed from office before the end of this year, but I will not resign even if they push me to the wall. I am not serving to please any CS or PS; I am here to serve the people,” said Maraga.

He lamented that he had been denied police clearance when travelling; he did not have a Mercedes Benz, and he was not allowed to access VIP lounges at airports when travelling out of the country.

The judge said it was a sign of disrespect when senior government officials delegated their clerks to write official letters to him.

On the budget cuts, the CJ accused cartels of trying to cripple the Judiciary because they were unhappy when the court issued orders stopping contracts.

He claimed he had been told to talk to the same cartels if he wanted more funds for the Judiciary.

“They told us they are the people we should talk to for more money, but I will not go to them. You will find that the people behind the cartels are the Cabinet secretaries, the permanent secretaries or their cronies,” he said.

The judge said they would not engage the Treasury again in negotiating budgetary allocations, and that from next year Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Ann Amadi would present their proposals to the National Assembly.

He urged acting National Treasury CS Ukur Yattani to obey a court order that directed he releases the allocated funds to the Judiciary’s account, terming his reluctance as a bad example to the rule of law.

Maraga said the Government should lead by example and obey any judgment made against it.

The CJ accused National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and Majority Leader Aden Duale of misleading the public about the budget cuts, saying they should visit the Judiciary to see for themselves the real situation on the ground.

“Mr Duale told us to stop playing politics, alleging that the Judiciary budget has not been slashed. We cannot play politics in the justice system. They should come and experience the challenges we are facing.”

On the fight against corruption, the CJ said they fully support the President in his resolve to end the vice, but that the Judiciary will follow the rule of law when handling corruption cases

He urged the investigative agencies to table strong evidence to secure convictions.

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