The Vetting Board is not a court of law and although it is a creation of the constitution, it is a body established with the specific mandate of determining the suitability of Judges and Magistrates as provided for in the Vetting Act and in section 23 of the sixth schedule of the Constitution. The Board has no judicial powers like the normal courts and therefore cannot sit as a court of law when conducting a hearing before it. The Board also comprises of members who are not from the legal profession but who form the interviewing panel.
As a matter of principle, impartiality is the basis on which the Board operates and it is presented in the following ways:
a) The Composition of the Board constitutes three foreign Judges all from different nationalities,
b) The vetting process is guided by an Act (VJMA 2011) which outlines the procedure and criteria of vetting the Judges and Magistrates
c) The Board Members are drawn from different backgrounds and from different Professions.
The Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Act provides in Section19 (5) that the hearing by the Board shall not be conducted in public, unless the concerned Judge or Magistrate requests a public hearing. This explains why the proceedings are conducted in private.
The Board operates on the principle of confidentiality and all the staff are under oath of secrecy. Therefore all the information the Board receives is strictly confidential and is only used for the intended purpose.
The law provides that all complaints should reach the Board 14 days before the Judge or Magistrate is set to appear before the Board for vetting. Through our schedule of interviews we encourage the public to submit their complaints on time. The 14 day period helps the Board to process the complaints and also serve the Judge or Magistrate giving him/her reasonable time to respond.
The Board has a complaints registry where once a complaint is received, an acknowledgment letter confirming receipt is sent by post where contact information has been provided. If it is an online submission, an automated response is sent. In addition, email correspondences are acknowledged in kind.
Complaints forwarded to the Board can be submitted through the Board’s official complaint form (JMVB Form 1) or by a letter addressed to the Board setting out the complaint. The form can be found on our website (www.jmvb.or.ke) or collected at our offices. One can therefore fill the form online; download the form from the website and send it via email; fill it and either post it or drop it at our offices.
All individuals, associations, companies, bodies of persons whether incorporated or unincorporated may participate by submitting complaints or other useful informational directly to the Board or through any of the following bodies which may also submit the complaints to the Board.
· Law Society of Kenya;
· Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission;
· Advocates Disciplinary Committee;
· Advocates Complaints Commission;
· Public Complaints Standing Committee;
· Commission on Administrative Justice; and
· Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission;
· National Intelligence Service;
· National Police Service Commission.
· Judicial Service Commission.
Section 18 of the vetting Act lists competence; written and oral communication skills; integrity; fairness; temperament; good judgment; legal and life experience and a demonstrable commitment to public and community service as the factors to be looked into while conducting the vetting exercise. For instance, the following factors can lead the Board to find a judicial officer unsuitable:
· Involvement in corruption and unethical conduct in the discharge of judicial duties.
· Incompetency to hold office due to lack of qualifications.
· Conviction of a criminal offence or abuse of office.
· Professional malpractice.
· Abdication of duty.
Article 10(2) of the Constitution requires upholding of equity, human dignity, social justice, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalized while Article 159 requires judicial officers to dispense justice expeditiously to all without regard to status and also without undue regard to procedural technicalities.