Maraga seeks to allay Cord fears on election petitions

Chief Justice David Maraga (left) with Cord co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Raila Odinga, and Moses Wetang’ula (partly hidden) and Siaya Senator James Orengo during a tour of the museum at the Supreme Court on November 1, 2016. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By PATRICK LANG’ATpatric-photo Maraga seeks to allay Cord fears on election petitions

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Chief Justice David Maraga on Tuesday reached out to the Opposition in an attempt to instil confidence in the Judiciary after the 2013 presidential election petition that almost split the country.

Cord felt the Supreme Court cheated it when it dismissed Mr Raila Odinga’s petition and confirmed Mr Uhuru Kenyatta as president.

Though Cord said it would respect the ruling, it protested a decision by the court to reject evidence it believed could have helped its case.

And as Kenya heads to a highly competitive and charged election next year, Justice Maraga said the Judiciary was ready for any eventuality, including a presidential petition.

“I want to assure the country that the Judiciary is prepared to handle any election petitions that may arise next year,” he told Cord leaders after a one-and-a-half hour closed door meeting.

“I hope Parliament will appropriate sufficient funds to enable us perform this task satisfactorily.”

The Supreme Court has the exclusive mandate to hear and determine presidential election petitions and its decision is final.

“The Judiciary will be for all Kenyans and will serve without bias on all matters brought before the courts, including election petitions,” Justice Maraga said after the meeting at the Supreme Court.

Mr Odinga attended the meeting with Cord co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula. Also present were Siaya Senator James Orengo and Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu.

Cord has often said the Judiciary under Chief Justice Willy Mutunga was not tough enough on corruption.

“We are determined to create an institution where public confidence is strong, not by our demand but by our service — where our conduct, transparency, integrity and jurisprudential rigour become the source of the public respect we command,” said the CJ.

Mr Odinga congratulated the CJ on his appointment.

Placing the fight against corruption and case backlog on CJ Maraga’s doorstep, Mr Odinga said: “We want to see justice being done as justice delayed is justice denied. The new CJ has a huge task to ensure judicial reforms and to give Kenyans justice.”

Chief Justice Maraga told the Cord leaders he would build a strong and open system that will inspire confidence among Kenyans.

He said he was committed to reduce the case backlog, digitise operations, protect the independence of the Judiciary, defend and uphold the Constitution, fight corruption and improve access to the courts.

This vision, he however said, was not possible if the Judiciary was not adequately funded.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will start sitting on November 14 — a full bench — with a case on the retirement age for judges expected to take centre stage.

START HEARING CASES

Dr Mutunga left office when the case to determine whether retirement age is 70 or 74 was still pending.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice Maraga said the Supreme Court will start hearing cases on the basis of their priority.

He said the top court’s judges will go for a retreat before November 14 to list the cases that should be given priority.

“We are aware of the pending cases and the wait by Kenyans. We have scheduled the first high priority cases from November 14 to December 15 to clear those pending matters as soon as possible,” Mr Justice Maraga said after he chaired a Supreme Court meeting for the first time since his swearing in.

The other case that will see also elicit a lot of interest is a case by lawyers seeking the abolishment of the death penalty.

Before the November 14, the CJ said, the top court will go on a retreat to list down those cases they should pay the closest attention to and how fast they should be heard.

“This is to tell Kenyans that we are now fully operational,” he told journalists in the press conference at the Supreme Court accompanied by the six other judges of the court.

The court had not sat since June when former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga retired, and the same court entered a judgment that saw the exit of DCJ Kalpana Rawal and Supreme Court judge Philip Tunoi.

The law requires the court to have at least five judges for it to sit and make determinations.

As it stood after the retirement of the three, the court had only four judges: Justices Mohamed Ibrahim, Dr Smokin Wanjala, and Prof Jackton Ojwang’ as well as Lady Justice Njoki Ndung’u.

But following the swearing in of CJ Maraga, Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, and Supreme Court Judge Isaac Lenaola, the top court is now fully constituted.

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