LEADER

EDITORIAL: JSC must keep an open door policy

The obfuscation of the JSC only helps to lump good judges and bad ones in the same basket.

In Summary

• As a public institution, one of the key avenues for the public to have confidence in the workings of the JSC is to listen to petitions in an open and transparent way.

• But instead of the JSC taking advantage of its processes to strengthen the institution by making petitions public, it has resorted to unnecessary secrecy

JSC members announce the Chief Justice nominee on April 27, 2021.
JSC members announce the Chief Justice nominee on April 27, 2021.
Image: CHARLENE MALWA

To be entrusted with the duty of dispensing justice is an exceptionally weighty responsibility and honour that must guarded jealously.

Kenyan judges entrusted with dispensing justice are often accused of falling short of their role of neutrality — a most grievous state of affairs.

Drafters of the Constitution found it wise to create the role of the Judicial Service Commission, and one of its job to listen to complaints against judicial officers. 

As a public institution, one of the key avenues for the public to have confidence in the workings of the JSC is to listen to petitions in an open and transparent way.

But instead of the JSC taking advantage of its processes to strengthen the institution by making petitions public, it has resorted to unnecessary secrecy under the hollow excuse of protecting the reputation of judicial officers against whom petitions are filed.

Without public confidence, it will matter not the neutrality or wisdom of the judges and magistrates as long as rumours continue to swirl in public about their integrity.

The obfuscation of the JSC only helps to lump good judges and bad ones in the same basket.

Common sense dictates that if a petition against a judicial officer has no merit, it will be dismissed as such.

The JSC has a self-serving habit of never letting the public know how they reach their decisions. The whole complaint process must be made public. This is a public-funded institution. It has no choice but to be transparent.

The public have a right to know whether the commission has dealt with complaints against judges and magistrates in a fair manner or not.

The JSC cannot hide behind spurious claims of protecting the reputation of a judge or magistrate, while ignoring the right of millions of Kenyans to know.

It is time for JSC to reconsider its mode of operation when handling such complaints.

After all, if a complaint is not warranted, the subject of the complaint will walk out of the process with their reputation intact.