Former CJ Willy Mutunga calls for independence of the Judiciary

Willy Mutunga

Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga delivering his inaugural lecture Kabarak University on Friday, January 28, 2022.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has stressed the importance of upholding the independence of the Judiciary as enshrined in the Constitution.

His call comes at a time when seven Supreme Court Judges led by Chief Justice Martha Koome are expected to deliver a landmark ruling on the fate of Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

The judges started their retreat on January 21 to start writing the BBI verdict.

Prof Mutunga made the remarks on Friday at Kabarak University when he delivered a lecture entitled "In search and defence of radical legal education; a personal footnote."

 He said political struggles also exist in the Judiciary depending on each judicial officer's intellectual, ideological, political, social and cultural position.

"Judicial officers should stop deluding themselves that they are not doing politics whether their politics emerges from their judgments or their extra-judicial scholarly writings and speeches, judicial officers have consigned the judiciary to an institutional political actor," said Prof Mutunga.

"Courts do politics but they should give verdicts without pressures of the politics of the elites and their political successions," he added.

He said the Supreme Court was attacked during the 2017 presidential election petition by factions of the elite political parties.

"By deciding against both elite factions in both petitions, the Supreme Court, in my view, signalled its independence. It also made a clear statement that it will uphold the Constitution without regard to pressure from the opposing sides," said Prof Mutunga.

He said how the Supreme Court sustains pressures from political factions of the elite political parties will be critical to the development of jurisprudence, its independence, the independence of the entire Judiciary, and judicial politics going forward.

“The Supreme Court must be ready to give leadership on judicial politics," he said.

"Judicial officers should always ask themselves in whose interest the independence of the Judiciary is," he added.

Prof Mutunga who was last year appointed as a Professor of Public Law at Kabarak Law School, said the judiciary must make a stand on what it wants to be known for amidst political pressures.

The former CJ underscored the importance of the Judiciary and the bar working together.

"The bar and the Judiciary are judicial twins joined at the hip, they must help in the development of jurisprudence and democracy to liberate Africa," he said.