Why JSC wants Justice Ojwang probed by tribunal

In Summary

• Once a tribunal is formed, it will schedule and conduct thorough investigations and organise hearings.

• Complainants, Ojwang and witnesses, if any, will appear before the team.

Supreme Court Judge Jackton Ojwang
TRIBUNAL Supreme Court Judge Jackton Ojwang
Image: FILE

President Uhuru Kenyatta has been advised to form a tribunal to probe Supreme Court judge Jacktone Ojwang over gross misconduct.

The decision by the Judicial Service Commission was reached mainly because, in one of the complaints against the judge, there were sufficient grounds to warrant further investigations.

The petition that landed Ojwang in trouble is one filed by Nelson Onyango and eight others. They accused him of misconduct, impropriety, conflict of interest and breach of the judicial code of conduct.

They took issue with the fact that the judge sat on a bench of Supreme Court judges in a case that involved Migori county, yet he was closely associated with Governor Okoth Obado. 

The nine claimed Obado tarmacked a road leading to the judge’s rural home.

In their view, Ojwang should have informed the court and other parties of his association with the county chief but failed to do so until they protested.

The JSC delved into the complaints. 

"Upon presentation of the report by the [JSC] committee, the full commission deliberated on the same at great length and found that the petition had disclosed sufficient grounds to warrant a recommendation to the President to set up a tribunal for removal of Justice Jacktone Ojwang, and accordingly adopted it,” CJ David Maraga said yesterday.

Once a tribunal is formed, it will schedule and conduct thorough investigations.

It will organise hearings. The complainants, Ojwang and witnesses, if any, will appear before the team.

The tribunal will retreat to come up with a decision. Ojwang will remain in office if found not guilty and removed if found guilty.

Justice Jackton Ojwang takes his seat for the interview for position of Chief Justice.
Justice Jackton Ojwang takes his seat for the interview for position of Chief Justice.

Yesterday, Maraga, in a statement, said a JSC committee, which was chaired by Mercy Ndeche, summoned Ojwang to defend himself against the accusations, but he declined and instead sent a letter explaining himself.

He also instructed lawyer Nani Mungai to represent him before the commission.

In the letter, Ojwang dismissed the claims.

“So seriously did the Judicial Service Commission take the said ‘witness’ it arranged with senior police officers, and surveyors to travel to my county residence — which does not lie in Awendo sugar belt but is located on the  outskirts of Migori town — and take photographs of the road network showing the major roads and the minor roads,” he said.

From the whole context of this matter and from the full context of the ill-intent against me as is quite evident, I will not be appearing before the well-known committee members of the Judicial Service Commission.”
Supreme Court judge Jacktone Ojwang

Ojwang was admitted as an advocate of the High Court in September 1983.

He joined the Judiciary in 2003, serving as a High Court judge in Nairobi and Mombasa until 2011.

In June 2012, he was among the five judges nominated to the Supreme Court by the JSC. It interviewed 25 applicants.

Ojwang was one of the six judges who dismissed the presidential election petition of March 30, 2013.

When former CJ Willy Mutunga retired in June 2016, he applied to succeed him.

He was initially left out of the shortlist but was later invited for an interview after a court compelled the commission to interview all applicants who had met the requirements for the job.

Another nine applicants sought the job. Maraga emerged tops. 

During the 2017 presidential election, Ojwang and Justice Njoki Ndung'u dissented. They said there was not enough evidence to have the election results annulled.

Yesterday, the JSC also admitted nine new cases against judges of the appeal and high courts.

It, however, dismissed eight cases for lack of merit. The judges will have 14 days to defend themselves against the accusations.

The CJ will also have 14 days to reply to a complaint filed for his removal. A petitioner accused him of nepotism, political partiality and risking the independence of the Judiciary.

This week, the commission has conducted private hearings involving 11 judges. They are Justices, Said Juma Chitembwe, D.K. Njagi, James Wakiaga, Richard Mwongo, Mary Gitumbi, Edward Muriithi, Martin Muya, Thripsisa Wanjiku Cherere, Lucy Waithaka, and Amin Farah.

The accusations against them include bias, partiality when handling cases, inordinate delay in delivery of rulings, and professional misconduct.

In one of the complaints involving an anti-corruption case, one of the accused persons claimed to have procured and delivered a bribe to a judge.

In another complaint, both parties in a case gave conflicting allegations about bribing a judge.