I am a liberal Christian, CJ nominee Maraga tells vetting MPs
Judge tells Justice Committee that he is not a fanatic and will follow the law
Chief Justice nominee David Maraga, 66, yesterday told MPs he will work to end frequent wrangles pitting Parliament and the executive against the judiciary.
He told the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee that as a “liberal Christian rather than a fanatic”, he will follow the law when discharging his duties.
“I am a Christian living in Kenya and working in the judiciary serving the people. I am not a fanatic, I know some people are not Christians I am not going to trample on their rights just because they are not Christians, that is not even what my faith teaches me,” Maraga said.
“I will ensure people who come to court are accorded their constitutional right irrespective of their religion. I deal with people, the law and the evidence before me.”
Maraga said he will work to ensure there is harmony among the three arms of government. He said there should be separation of powers, but with clear checks and balances to prevent abuse and excesses.
“We are all accountable to the people. The three arms in all democracies, when operating ideally and properly, there are checks and balances,” Maraga said.
MPs asked Maraga what he will do to avoid situations where the courts issue injunctions against parliamentary proceedings or development projects by the executive following applications by residents or civil society groups.
“If we have respect for each other and embrace dialogue, I don’t see a situation where summons are issued to Parliament and the executive. It is all about the way a matter is dealt with,” Maraga said.
“We cannot have a situation where a judge summons the speaker when performing his duties. We should not even think of summoning the President. The same should be accorded to the Chief Justice.”
Maraga said he will establish a quarterly round table where the President, speaker and Chief Justice meet to deliberate on cross-cutting issues of public interest “to avoid unnecessary squabbles”.
MPs raised concerns the judiciary encroaches on Parliament’s lawmaking powers through court orders. But Maraga said injunctions are issued sparingly when committees of the House sit as a quasi-judicial body.
“It is not that the judiciary is usurping Parliament. We have only done that when there is evidence of not following due process because that process is like court proceedings,” he told MPs.
Maraga said corruption in the judiciary is both real and perceived. He said he will restructure the office of Ombudsman and establish a fully fledged secretariat equipped with qualified investigating officers.
“Corruption is widespread in our country and the judiciary is no exception. Losers of court cases think their opponents have bribed us. We get quite a number of allegations against judges and judicial offers,” Maraga said.
He said the office of Ombudsman will be critical in dealing with “widespread” corruption allegations in the judiciary through thorough investigations.
“Currently the office is led by a chief magistrate. I will restructure it to have it headed by a senior judge because the protocol does not allow a magistrate to summon a judge,” Maraga said.
He said he will use his 25 years of experience as a private legal practitioner and 13 years as a judge to address the issue of backlog of cases and the disappearance of files from court registries.
Maraga said he will automate court records and all proceedings. “I have spoken to development partners and we are exploring the possibility of using automation in hearing election petitions. We will soon get the equipment to automate the proceedings ahead of the next polls,” he said.
Maraga said he will instill a sense of teamwork among judicial officers and staff to bring the duration of cases before court to three years.
He said cases that drag hurt the economy. “No leader can succeed if you don’t carry your staff with you. We need to get the teamwork in place and understand we are all there to serve wananchi,” Maraga said.
The judge was interviewed against the backdrop of three petitions against his appointment. They were filed by Emmanuel Korir, Fredrick Onyancha and Ainamoi resident Tom Biegon. Korir accused Maraga of failing to uphold the Constitution in his ruling in a case regarding the killing of the then Ainamoi MP David Too, on January 31, 2008. The parliamentary aspirant says Maraga reduced the murder charge to manslaughter, leading to a 10-year imprisonment.
Chief Justice nominee Justice David Maraga before the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee. He was vetted in Parliament yesterday