Judges have to give up a few things in exchange for their robes. Attending partisan political events is one such thing. Thus it came as a surprise to many when Chief Justice David Maraga attended a political event on the Wednesday of 20th February 2019 in Kisii County. The event presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta was also attended by other leading political personalities in the country.
The outrage that this elicited on the floor of the Senate during the debate on 21st February 2019, speaks to the time honoured principle that judges should not participate in partisan political activities. This is so given that the twin constitutional principles/values of separation of powers and judicial independence place great weight on the interest in a fair and impartial judiciary.
The purposes of the prohibition are to protect the independence and the impartiality and fairness of judges, to maintain the trust of the people in the courts, and to regulate the relationships among the judicial, legislative, and executive branches in the separation of powers. If this is not adhered to, the public will certainly lose its trust and confidence in the judiciary.
The fear is that allowing judges to participate in political activities, impairs the ability of the courts to render impartial judgment, and blurs the separation of judicial from executive and legislative powers which is intended to ensure the independence of the judiciary. Furthermore, it goes against the widely held view that the judicial branch is apolitical unlike its executive and legislative counterparts, regarded as the political branches, implying that judges are apolitical.
It is the stance of this publication, that the Chief Justice and other Judges should desist from appearing in political events that may erode the foundation on which the judiciary rests and may undermine the people’s trust in the impartiality and fairness of judges.