President Kenyatta has forwarded the name of Chief Justice nominee Martha Koome to the National Assembly for vetting.
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi yesterday said he had received communication from the President asking the House to vet the Court of Appeal judge.
And although the Public Appointments (Parliamentary Approval) Act provides that the vetting, approval or rejection be done within 28 days from when the notification of the nomination was given, the Speaker urged MPs to speed up the process.
“In view of the compelling public interest and the unique place of the office of the Chief Justice in our constitutional and legal order, the committee is requested to consider the nomination on a priority basis,” Mr Muturi told the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee.
He directed the team to ensure that it notifies the nominee and the general public of the time and place for holding the hearings expeditiously.
“The President seeks the approval of the National Assembly on the said nomination,” Mr Muturi said.
The committee Kangema MP Muturi chairs is expected to table its report on the floor of the House on or before May 25.
The JSC nominated Justice Koome on Tuesday barely four hours after the Court of Appeal lifted orders suspending the recruitment.
With interviews concluded on Friday, the commission had until the end of this week to discuss and nominate the person to lead the Judiciary.
Should Parliament approve her nomination, Justice Koome will be named Kenya’s 15th Chief Justice and the first woman to hold the position.
JSC vice-chairperson Olive Mugenda announced Justice Koome’s nomination just before 4.30pm on Tuesday.
On the morning of the same day, the appellate court had lifted a High Court order barring the JSC from reviewing interview results, following three petitions challenging the recruitment.
The three petitions were filed last week, with Justice Anthony Mrima issuing the stoppage order on Wednesday.
The JSC challenged the order at the Court of Appeal.
Some civil society players yesterday said the process should have been allowed to move slowly for transparency’s sake.
Governance expert Barasa Nyukuri asserted that the general perception is that there already was a preferred candidate, hence the rush to swear Justice Koome in before a court issues any order.
“It is a political trivia and not right. The June deadline (to appoint a Chief Justice) is still far. They should have given it at least 14 days for any challenges to be dealt with,” Mr Nyukuri said.
When Justice David Maraga was nominated to replace Dr Willy Mutunga as CJ in 2016, President Kenyatta forwarded his name to Parliament after one week.
When Dr Mutunga was nominated in May, 2011, President Mwai Kibaki took almost a month to forward his name to Parliament.
Hours after the Court of Appeal lifted the orders, commission members emerged to announce the results, with Prof Mugenda saying the JSC held “lengthy discussions” before making a decision.
Deputy President William Ruto is understood to have called Justice Koome yesterday to congratulate her on her nomination.
Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia praised the team for nominating Justice Koome for CJ. She called it “a milestone for gender equality and women empowerment”.