Court bars swearing in of Ringera tribunal, reinstates suspended Commissioners

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 3 – The High Court has blocked a tribunal appointed by president Uhuru Kenyatta to investigate six Judicial Service Commissioners from commencing its probe.

High Court judge George Odunga has also directed the six commissioners to remain in office and carry their duties pending the determination of the case filed by JSC.

JSC had complained to the court that departmental committee of Parliament had acted unconstitutionally and in disregard of a court order that barred it from debating and presenting its findings for adoption by the House.

The court order was issued on November 30 and it was directing the departmental committee from debating on petition filed by Riungu Nicholas Mugambi seeking the removal of the six.

That order was not obeyed by the committee or the National Assembly which adopted it and forwarded it to the president.

The judge has now suspended the Gazette notice appointing the tribunal headed by retired Justice Aaaron Ringera. Other members of the tribunal are Jennifer Shamallah, Ambrose Otieno Weda and Mutua Kilaka.

Justice Odunga has in the meantime ordered that the file be placed before Chief Justice Willy Mutunga for directions and appointment of a three-judge bench to hear the JSC’s petition.

President Kenyatta had last Friday formed the four-member tribunal to investigate the conduct of Commissioners Ahmednasir Abdullahi, Samuel Kobia, Christine Mango, Mohamed Warsame, Emily Ominde and Florence Mwangangi.

“I ask that the tribunal work to complete its task fairly and expeditiously so that the Commission and indeed the entire Government can continue the work necessary to deliver justice to all Kenyans without compromise,” said Kenyatta through a statement.

“Fellow Kenyans I wish to reiterate that the suspension of the six members of the Judicial Service Commission will not hamper the administration of justice in the country. Judges and magistrates will continue dispensing justice within courtrooms. No Kenyan will be turned away as a result of today’s action.”

According to the gazette notice dated November 29, the mandate of the Tribunal shall be to investigate the alleged conduct of the said members of the Judicial Service Commission and determine whether it discloses grounds for removal of any or all of them from office under Article 251 (1) of the Constitution.

It is then expected to report on the facts and make its recommendations to the Head of State.

Kenyatta also said in a statement that he had met with both the Speaker of the National Assembly and Chief Justice Willy Mutunga before the decision was reached.

“The two-week hiatus between the receipt of the Petition and the formation of the Tribunal was for me to understand and mediate the perceived conflict between the National Assembly and the Judiciary,” he said.

The six Commissioners came to the spotlight following the sacking of Chief Registrar of the Judiciary, Gladys Boss Shollei.

Her being sent home exposed a lot of rot in the Judiciary including concerns of financial misappropriation and gross abuse of office.

Efforts by Parliament to probe the goings on at the Judiciary were futile with the Commissioners maintaining that the Judiciary was an independent arm of government and Parliament had no mandate whatsoever to investigate it.

The Commissioners ignored summons by the Legal Affairs Committee over the issue instead sending their legal representative Paul Muite to represent them.

“We had invited the Commissioners that were in the petition and so we do not intend to give him (Muite) a hearing because this was not a matter that was supposed to be delegated to any other person,” said Committee Chairman Samuel Chepkonga.

“This was a substantive issue; not a procedural issue. Muite will be informed that this committee does not intend to give him any audience.”

The Committee’s report was then tabled in Parliament with a verdict urging the President to form a tribunal against the JSC

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