A rights activist has asked the Judicial Service Commission to remove Chief Justice David Maraga from office for alleged gross misconduct.
Mr Okiya Omtatah, who filed the petition on Wednesday, is unhappy with CJ Maraga’s intervention in a case he had filed over the recruitment of the auditor-general.
He accuses the Supreme Court president of stopping a High Court judge from delivering a ruling in the case challenging the process of hiring a replacement for Mr Edward Ouko who retired in August last year.
Mr Omtatah claims that the CJ llegally called for a file and indefinitely suspended delivery on a ruling that Justice Stephen Radido was meant to deliver.
Mr Maraga is yet to respond to the petition filed with the judiciary employer, where the Chief Justice also sits.
In his case at the High Court, Mr Omtatah has challenged the government’s decision to re-advertise the auditor-general’s job following Mr Ouko’s exit last year.
Justice Radido was expected to deliver a ruling on February 26 but Mr Omtatah now claims that the Chief Justice hijacked the file, stopping the case from proceeding.
The activist’s JSC petition accuses the Chief Justice of interfering with the High Court’s independence, something that could pose difficult questions for Kenya’s judicial system.
The JSC received the petition on March 4 but is yet to confirm the hearing dates.
Mr Omtatah wants the JSC to “be pleased to initiate the necessary procedures for inquiry into the conduct and subsequent removal of Chief Justice David Kenani Maraga for breach of oath of office and gross misconduct and/or misbehaviour incompatible with the Status of Judge of the Supreme Court of Kenya”.
He adds: “The actions of the learned Chief Justice constitute a subverment and defilement of the Constitution, a threat to the rule of law and constitutional order, and is a breach of the oath of office the learned Chief Justice took to protect, administer and defend the Constitution with a view to upholding the dignity and respect of the Judiciary and the judicial system of Kenya.”
The process of finding Mr Ouko’s successor has stalled since last year, partly owing to the petition Mr Omtatah filed.
Under Kenya’s law, this individual should have been appointed by December 2019.
The Constitution does not provide for a deputy auditor-general, hence a huge gap in one of Kenya’s most crucial offices charged with overseeing the use of public funds.
The stalled succession also leaves Kenyans exposed as no other officer in the auditor-general’s office is allowed to sign off audit reports on government institutions.