LAWYERS PLAN TO PETITION KIBAKI OVER LAW CHANGES

Change Associates Executive Director Ngunjiri Wambugu (right) and Kenya Human Rights Commission Executive Director Atsango Chesoni during a press conference in Nairobi on June 22, 2012. They expressed their opposition to the amendment of electoral laws through the Miscellaneous Amendment Bill. Photo/BILLY MUTAI

NAIROBI, Lawyers will petition President Kibaki not to assent to changes made to the Vetting of Judges and magistrates Act by Parliament.

The Law Society of Kenya on Friday said that the it was unacceptable for the Judicial Service Commission to vet magistrates only as the judges are scrutinised by the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board.

“The constitution does not envisage that the JSC should undertake the vetting exercise otherwise it should have been expressly stated in Section 23 of The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The said amendment is therefore unconstitutional,” LSK chairman Eric Mutua told journalists in Nairobi.

Mr Mutua said that the amendment would bring the credibility of the vetting process in question.

He added that it was not a fair administrative action for two parallel bodies to undertake the same exercise.

“Definitely there will be double standards since both bodies are not likely to use similar benchmark. As a matter of fact there is disquiet within the legal fraternity that some of the judges appointed under the current JSC are either corrupt or incompetent,” he said.

He was speaking at the LSK offices, where the organisation’s officials also announced that they would petition the President not to assent to other changes made to the Elections Act and the Political Parties Act.

“As the Law Society of Kenya, we see these amendments as an illegality and a move by Parliament to circumvent the provisions of the Constitution which deal with leadership and integrity,” the lawyers said in a statement.

They added that MPs had demonstrated that they could not be trusted to safeguard the aspirations of the Law, especially where they have vested interests, when they made the changes through The Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill.

“By allowing party hopping the MPs have confirmed what the public has always suspected that is the MPs do not respect or understand the philosophy behind political party democracy.

When Kenyans voted at the referendum by endorsing Article 91 of the constituting they sought to cure the governance and political problem brought about by political parties,” Mr Mutua said.

He added that if the President fails to honour their petition, they would proceed to court to challenge the amendments.

He also urged the public to ignore any unconstitutional law and resort to Article 22 and 23 of the Constitution to protect the aspirations of the Law.

“In this regard LSK is proceeding with its plans to vet all persons seeking political office so as to comply with chapter six of the Constitution. With what has happened, we have no faith that the expected legislation under chapter six will accord with the letter and spirit of that chapter,” he said.

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