Chief Justice Martha Koome has criticized a call made by former CJ Willy Mutunga calling on judges to down tools in protest of the continued disobedience of court orders by the Executive arm of government.
Mutunga had on Thursday indicated a go-slow by the judges would compel the Executive to obey court orders and rule of law.
However, in a lengthy statement on Friday, Koome said the implications of the strike would be detrimental.
She stated that Mutunga’s calls amount to incitement meant to disrupt access to justice for Kenyans.
“The implications of calling for a judicial strike are far-reaching. It is in part, calling for the suspension or dismemberment of the Constitution by excluding one arm of Government from the constitutional operations of our democratic state,” said Koome.
She added: “While it is appreciated that every person is entitled to intellectual or opinionative expression, it must be remembered that where such expressions threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of Kenyans, we must all stand together to find lesser damaging alternatives which are not at variance with our collective obligations as a people to defend the Constitution.”
The President of the Supreme Court wondered why Mutunga, who adopted a diplomatic style of solving issues when he served in the Judiciary, is inciting judges to strike.
“While serving as Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission, Dr. Mutunga disproved any action by Judges to down their tools when three Supreme Court Judges were indicted with allegations to down their tools. He did that by laying charges before the Judicial Service Commission calling for the removal of Justice Mohammed Ibrahim, Justice J.B Ojwang’ and Justice Njoki Ndung’u, a position he maintained even in Court,” she said.
“Although the Judges have since been cleared of those allegations by the High Court, it is expected that the Office of the Chief Justice and the Judicial Service Commission would take such action as an affront to the Code of Conduct that all Judges and Judicial Officers have sworn to uphold. It is therefore regrettable that Dr. Mutunga has called for abscondment of duty by Judiciary which in effect, will affect the operations of the entire justice sector.”
Koome urged judges to disregard the calls and focus on reducing a 700,000-case backlog.
“Clearing this backlog remains our top priority. We therefore cannot afford to abandon our judicial mandate owing to a matter that is pending before the Court of Appeal and which will be accorded the centrality that it deserves,” she added.
“The rule of law provides us with avenues to express our grievances, a mode the former Chief Justice adopted as Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission in 2015 when a recommendation was made to His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta, CGH to appoint twenty-five Judges. Only fourteen were appointed while eleven remained unappointed for a period of over twelve months. To deal with the impasse, Dr. Mutunga adopted a diplomatic approach that included a plea to the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association to withdraw a suit filed on the same matter to allow negotiations.
“The former Chief Justice’s perilous call for Judges to down their tools, an outcome which he consciously avoided during his tenure, is not the answer.”