Appeals Court gives JSC nod to hire 26 judges

Chief Justice Martha Koome. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

The Judicial Service Commission has been allowed to proceed with the planned recruitment of 26 new judges, a move that will help in easing case backlog.

The judges to be recruited include six judges of the Court of Appeal and 20 High Court judges. 

The process had been stopped following an application by Katiba Institute arguing that it is illegal since President Uhuru Kenyatta has refused to swear in six judges who were successfully recruited by JSC.

A bench of three judges of the appellate court said Chief Justice Martha Koome and JSC have successfully demonstrated that they have an arguable case.

The Judges added that it is in the public interest that the recruitment process of the much needed judges proceed uninterrupted pending the hearing and determination of the petition before the High Court.

“If the appeal herein is unsuccessful or if ultimately the recruitment process is impugned by the final Court with requisite jurisdiction, then the situation is reversible,” Justices Wanjiru Karanja, Agnes Murgor and Imaana Laibuta said. 

The lobby group had challenged the recruitment of new judges questioning the legal and rationale of the JSC, inviting applications, yet there is a case pending in court touching on the same matter.

The JSC filed an appeal stating that barring it from recruiting the judges was interfering its constitutional mandate and an affront to Article 48 of the Constitution, which guarantees citizens access to efficient and effectual justice. 

Chief registrar of Judiciary Anne Amadi said the shortlisted candidates were not given an opportunity to be heard and their constitutional right to fair hearing had, therefore, been violated.

Among the candidates shortlisted for interviews set to begin next month are current judges of the High Court and judges of the Employment and Labour relations court. 

Twenty two of those shortlisted are currently serving as judges, including principal judge of the High Court Lydia Achode, Alfred Mabeya, the presiding judge of the Commercial division and Abida Ali Aroni. 

Also shortlisted are former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Hassan Ahmed Issack, secretary of Prosecutions at DPP’s office, Dorcas Oduor and JSC commissioner Paul Mwaniki Gachoka. 

Katiba institute has been fighting to have justices Joel Ngugi, George Odunga, Weldon Korir and Aggrey Muchelule, all currently serving as High Court Judges, were left out by President Kenyatta over alleged integrity issues, sworn in.

President Kenyatta had also rejected Evans Makori and Judith Omange who had been appointed as judges of the Land court. 

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