Deputy President William Ruto would have appointed six judges rejected from the list recommended by Judicial Service Commission.
In an exclusive interview with KTN on Thursday, Ruto said he agrees with Chief Justices David Maraga and Willy Mutunga that said a president is constitutionally bound to appoint all judges nominated by the JSC.
Reading from a different script to that of his party leader President Uhuru Kenyatta, who on June 2021, appointed 34 of the 40 candidates nominated by JSC and rejected the nominations of High Court Justices Joel Ngugi, George Odunga, Aggrey Muchelule and Weldon Korir to the Appellate court, as well as chief magistrate Evans Makori and High Court registrar Judith Omange, citing integrity and suitability issues, Ruto said the six should not be condemned unheard.
“The people who are better-versed matters law and constitution – the former Chief Justices Willy Mutunga and David Maraga – have said clearly that the right thing that should have happened was for all judges to be appointed and subsequently, if there are integrity issues on any judge then the normal process that involves a tribunal and those judges being subjected to due process,” said DP Ruto.
Pulling from a different end while witnessing the swearing-in of the 34 judges on June 4, President Kenyatta, however, said he took an oath to ‘both the letter and the spirit of the law; and it is not open to him to turn a blind eye to reports of state organs’.
The Head of State said his decision was based on intelligence reports on the judges he omitted on his list from that recommended by JSC in 2019.
“Just like the judges, I too took an oath. It is not open to me to turn a blind eye to reports of our State organs. As long as I serve as President, I will choose right over the convenient, choose the hard over the easy. I am not doing this for myself but for the people of Kenya and for posterity,” said President Kenyatta.
In a twist, the High Court weeks later temporarily stopped any investigation or prosecution of the six after a petitioner, Benard Okello, argued that the president discriminated against the judges and has no powers to review the appointments.
Justice James Makau in his ruling, barred the JSC from convening, recommending in a meeting and exercising any action against the rejected judges.
According to Maraga, the intelligence service has no role in vetting judges, and that the President erred in his decision.
Speaking about his tenure in the judiciary, Maraga faulted the president saying he unsuccessfully asked the president’s office to furnish him or JSC with detailed adverse reports against judges with integrity issues.
“I raised that issue when I was the CJ. I wrote to the President seeking answers and was told: ‘in the nature [under which] we conduct our business, we can’t give you those details’ … In the eyes of the public, these are corrupt judges because that is the analogy the President has put out there,” said Maraga.