The High Court has quashed the decision by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to cap the number of paid monthly meetings held by the Judicial Service Commission.
Justice Enoch Chacha Mwita has ruled that the decision was unlawful since SRC's mandate is only limited to setting salaries of State officers.
The judge issued an order barring SRC from interfering with the Judiciary’s independence.
“A declaration is issued that the role of SRC is limited to setting the remuneration and benefits of State officers serving in the JSC and not determining the number of enumerable meetings the members of the JSC may hold in discharging their mandate,” ordered Justice Mwita. JSC moved to court in 2016 to challenge SRC's decision to cap its paid monthly meetings to not more than eight. JSC sued SRC and the attorney-general, arguing that the directive at the time could prohibit timely recruitment of the chief justice, a judge of the Supreme Court, 20 judges of the Environment and Lands Court as well as 100 clerks. SRC had issued the directive via a circular dated December 19, 2015.
The judge disagreed with SRC’s position that the capping was meant to minimise expenditure.
He observed that Parliament, the legislative power, did not find it necessary to limit the number of meetings State organs and constitutional commissions should have and that SRC cannot purport to confer itself that role.
The commission had argued that unless the decision is stopped or suspended, JSC will be unable to meet required deadlines or even discharge its duties as far as independence, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness of the Judiciary in administration of justice are concerned. The SRC argued that the caps are necessary because most members of the JSC hold other public jobs and therefore enjoy double pay.
Members of the JSC enjoy numerous perks, including sitting allowance fixed at Sh50,000 per meeting for the chairperson, Sh45,000 (vice-chairperson) and Sh40,000 for other members. Special responsibility perks are set at Sh150,000 per month for chair, Sh135,000 for his deputy and Sh120,000 for other members. Commuter allowance is pegged at Sh30,000 monthly for each member.
Besides, the chairperson enjoys airtime allowance of 15,000 every month while other members are paid Sh10,000.