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CJ Maraga issues new rules to speed up poll petitions

The Judiciary has put in place an elaborate system to deal with the large number of petitions expected to arise from the August 8 General Election.

On Friday, Chief Justice David Maraga published a raft of rules that will be used to speed up the hearing of the cases.

PETITION

The rules, published in the Kenya Gazette, require that a presidential election petition be filed seven days after results are announced.

The results of the presidential election must be released by August 15, one week after the poll.

For one to be allowed to file such a petition, one has to deposit Sh1 million with the courts as security for costs.

SUPREME COURT
Sources within the Judiciary have indicated that they are expecting at least one petition from the presidential election, which will be heard directly by the Supreme Court.

Once a complainant has filed the case, he or she has to serve the respondents within two days.

PRE-TRIAL

In turn, the respondent will have four days within which to file their responses.

“There shall be a pre-trial conference on the eighth day after filing of the petition,” the CJ said in the presidential election petition rules.

After the pre-trial conference, the court will immediately start hearing the petition.

“Hearing will be done daily,” the Registrar of the Supreme Court, Ms Esther Nyayaki, said during a meeting with editors this week.

TIMELINE
The decision of the Supreme Court will be final.

According to the CJ, the new rules now override those of 2013.

However, just as it happened in 2013, the presidential election petition must be heard and concluded within 14 days while the other cases must be concluded within six months.

JUDGES
An official in the Judiciary said once a petition has been filed, the electoral commission will have 48 hours within which to provide all the information relating to the petition.

Unlike in 2013, all magistrates and judges who will be handling election petitions have been trained on election laws.

BALLOT BOXES

Leave for all Judiciary staff who will be handling election petitions has been suspended for the duration of the cases to ensure there is minimum delay.

Unlike in the past, when ballot boxes were transported to courts during hearings, this time round, all ballot boxes will remain in the custody of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to reduce chances of tampering while on transit.

However, a judge can order that additional seals be put on the boxes to ensure they are not tampered with.

ELECTIONS COMMITTEE

All scrutiny of ballot papers will, therefore, be carried out in IEBC warehouses, according to a presentation made by Mr Justice Mohammed Ibrahim as part of the preparations for the hearing of the election-related cases.

After the 2013 election, the Judiciary formed a permanent team to work on preparations for handling election petitions.

The team, known as the Judiciary Elections Committee, was led by Justice Maraga before he was appointed Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court.

MANY CASES
After his elevation, the position went to Justice Mbogholi Msagha.

This is the man who will now ensure all election-related cases are heard and determined on time.

“Given the high number of candidates for various seats, we expect a large number of petitions across the country,” a source who cannot be named because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the Judiciary said.

READ: IEBC receives final list of candidates

CONTESTANTS
A ward such as Esese in Kisii County has attracted 26 candidates.

Tetu Central in Nyeri County has attracted 16 parliamentary candidates.

Countrywide, there are 11,855 candidates eyeing MCA positions, yet there are only 1,450 seats.

COUNTY SEATS
This means over 10,000 candidates will lose out.

Similarly, there are 210 candidates seeking to be governors, yet there are only 47 seats available.

Another 1,891 candidates want to be MPs, yet only 290 seats are up for grabs.

PRESIDENCY
And 299 candidates are eyeing the Woman Rep posts, although there are only 47 seats available.

There are eight candidates in the presidential race and only one will be declared winner.

READ: These men too want to be President

Besides the large field of contestants, judges expect that the bungled party nominations will increase the number of petitions.

READ: Tribunals in a rush to dispose of cases

TRIBUNAL

Already, there is disquiet over how parties picked the candidates to be nominated for various seats reserved for special interest groups such as minorities and those with disabilities.

“At least 169 cases had been filed by Wednesday over the nomination lists submitted by parties,” the source said.

The cases have been filed with the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal.

READ: Tribunal to decide on 160 nomination disputes

GUIDELINES
On Friday, the tribunal rejected the Jubilee Party list of nominated MCAs for Nyeri County, saying the outfit had “failed to comply with its own constitution and there was no proportional representation”.

The CJ also gazetted new rules to be used by the High Court as well as the Court of Appeal in handling petitions for all the other seats, including those of governors and MPs.

“Save in exceptional circumstances as may be determined by the court, the hearing of a petition once commenced shall proceed uninterrupted on a day-to-day basis until its conclusion,” the rules state while also giving elaborate guidelines on how the cases will be conducted.

Even when there will be an adjournment, it will not last more than five days.

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