OPINIONPeople Daily

I’ll deliver justice in accordance with Constitution

Lydia Achode

In the 2010, following years of struggle, the Kenyan people overwhelmingly passed a new Constitution. It was a moment of great hope.

Eight years later, the Judiciary stands tall amongst its peers for the outstanding job it has done to breathe life into the Constitution.

I honour and celebrate all the judges, magistrates and judicial staff who continue to work hard to discharge justice sometimes under extreme adversity. Even as we celebrate the tremendous gains we have made, the expectations of the Kenyan people have never been higher.

The High Court and its judges occupy a unique position within the Judiciary structure. Apart from having unlimited jurisdiction in all matters law, it exercises original jurisdiction in Constitutional and Human Rights matters.

It has supervisory mandate over subordinate courts and tribunals and also serves as an appellate court. It is, therefore, with an acute sense of awareness of the task ahead that I take over as Principal Judge.

I am aware that I am taking over the reins of leadership at a very critical time when the High Court is facing more public scrutiny, when demand not only for it services but for quality services, is rising.

The Chief Justice has already provided a framework to deal with these demands through the Sustaining Judicial Transformation (SJT) blue print, for enhanced service delivery. I pledge to lead the High Court in continuing the work that has been done in implementing the SJT.

In tandem with this process, I undertake to complete ongoing High Court activities which include the following: Case backlog reduction through case management strategies and Service weeks, implementation of various practice directions, adoption of ICT to enhance service delivery, strengthening the ongoing Registry Improvement initiatives and rollout of court annexed mediation. While the task ahead is enormous, I will work with both internal and external stakeholders to ensure that we succeed together.

I owe this position to the fact that I am first and foremost a High Court Judge. I cannot demand from judges what I cannot demand from myself. I will lead from the front to ensure that I provide leadership to the High Court in carrying out our core business of hearing and determination of cases.

I will also engage with the judges and the steering committee on performance management to enhance the existing Performance Management System. However, as we demand more from our judges we shall also focus on creating a work environment that enhances performance.

I want to acknowledge and appreciate the tremendous steps that have been taken by the Judicial Service Commission not only to protect and enhance the independence of the Judiciary but also to make the Judiciary a better place to work.

There are, however, a few issues that are works in progress and in consultation with other offices and organs in the Judiciary, I will give wholehearted support and leadership to the welfare matters of the judges, deputy registrars, magistrates and staff.

Given the many contentious issues that surrounded the making of our Constitution, it was expected that the courts would have to resolve many of the issues. As the Court with original jurisdiction to interpret the Constitution, the High Court has been called upon time and again to resolve many such issues.

The court has not disappointed. Our judges have fearlessly pronounced themselves in accordance with the law and the Constitution. I salute and recognise our colleagues who have at times in challenging circumstances lived up to the calling of their sacred oath of office.

Because of you, the High Court is a place of refuge for those seeking the protection of the law. As Principal Judge under the leadership of the Chief Justice, I will at all times defend the independence of the Judiciary.

As I have stated, the High Court is an integral and indispensable part of the Judiciary. It must work harmoniously with the Court of Appeal, the Environment and Land Court and the Employment, Labour Relations Court and  the Magistrates Courts with which there are shared facilities.

At this critical time in the history of our country, we are called upon to unite for the sake of the millions of Kenyans who rely on the Judiciary to safeguard the rule of law.

The beauty of our country Kenya lies in the diversity of its people. The College of Judges is a reflection of this diversity and as I take office I pledge to listen to all these voices. I intend to harness our unique strengths by encouraging inclusive leadership where each of us is able to make his or her contribution.

I intend to visit every High Court in the country to appreciate the circumstances under which judges work and to listen to them. I will also hold wide ranging consultations with all our stakeholders and partners.

To my fellow Kenyans, my pledge to you is to live up to my oath of office. To do justice to you impartially in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear, favour, bias, affection, ill-will, prejudice or any political, religious or other influence. —The writer is the new Principal Judge of the High Court of Kenya

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