The High Court has ordered the Treasury to suspend a directive on budget cuts for the Judiciary pending determination of a petition filed by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK).
The society had petitioned to challenge the 50 per cent budgetary cut announced by acting Treasury Cabinet SecretaryUkur Yatan in a bid to reduce government’s recurrent expenditure.
The proposed austerity measures cuts on recurrent and development funds.
While issuing the order Justice James Kamau noted that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) provides a detailed report disclosing how the proposed budget cut would affect access and administration of justice.
The declaration by the CS resulted in a crisis at the Judiciary with many departments cancelling scheduled sittings and services.
In its petition, LSK argues that that the move threatens the dispensation of justice in the country.
“While the LSK and the public should commend the austerity measures adopted by the Executive, the effect of the same on independent arms of the government [such as] the Judiciary will greatly paralyse dispensation of justice, ” LSK’s Chief Executive Officer Mercy Wambua states in a sworn affidavit.
LSK warns that the directive will lead to immediate suspension of judicial service weeks, operations of mobile courts and all tribunal sittings, roll-out of the ICT programme and internet services to all courts in Kenya.
“Reduction of the Judiciary’s funds will greatly hamper the fight against corruption and administration of justice. It will also stall the development projects in the Judiciary, ” she adds.
LSK representative James Njeru, a member of JSC, also weighed on the matter on Monday saying implementation of the directive could cripple the justice system.
“The recent budget cuts against the Judiciary is a shocker to say the least. Administration of justice is critical for the rule of law and sustainability of the economy of our country. As is, the budget allocated to the Judiciary was inadequate. To cut it even further can only have the effect of grinding to a halt the operations of this critical arm of the government,” said Njeru.
The National Environment Tribunal recently cancelled its sittings for a period of over two months citing the budgetary austerity measures as the reason for the decision.
“The National Treasury has reduced our budget by 50%. Consequently, we are unable to conduct our sittings from October to December 2019,” a memo dated October 22 and addressed to all advocates, litigants and the general public reads in part.
The tribunal requested advocates with judgements on notice to wait for “further communication”.
Decrying the current state of affairs, the National Civil Aviation Administrative Tribunal also announced the suspension of its sittings from October until further notice.
The Environment and Land Court In Nakuru recently notified all advocates and litigants in ELC petition No.12 & 13 of 2018 that due to the budgetary cuts the court had been unable to facilitate the three-Judge Bench hearing that was scheduled for today, October 28, 2019, hence, postponing the session until further notice.
“Parties will be notified of new dates through their advocates once directions are given, ” the notice reads in part.