The Employment and Labour Court Judge Marete D. K. Njagi was on Thursday morning at pains to explain why he jailed some of his staff for making noise in the corridors of the court.
The Judicial Service Commission had received some complaints against the judge by his staff who had accused him of being high-handed.
“For a long time, we have had this issue and it is not going away. We cannot sustain this. On this day, we heard (the) noise and asked my staff to have those making the noise called in. One was brought in and the other one said he was not coming in. What I did was stop proceedings and had the person brought in and put in jail,” he said.
“If you read the ruling clearly, you will appreciate that this was not a one-day matter. It is a matter that stretched over six months. Anybody is entitled to their feelings of any matter. The staff of the Judiciary would have their own feelings on me etc. But we must all live on firmness so as to get results and establish policies,” said Justice Njagi.
The judge was also asked why his card for persons with disabilities indicates that he suffers from a mental illness.
The judge, who appeared before the Judicial Service Commission for the interview for the position of Chief Justice, was put to task to explain why despite getting the card in 2015, following his application to the National Council for Persons with Disability, he had made no attempts to have the matter resolved.
Justice Njagi had requested the council to issue him with the card to facilitate his work at the Judiciary as a person living with a disability, saying that he suffered from visual impairment. The judge said that at the time of making the request, he was also suffering from diabetes.
But JSC commissioner Justice Mohammed Warsame, put the judge to task to explain why the card indicated that he also suffered from mental issues.
“I have no mental issues. This was an error. I was warned about it by a colleague. I have never had time to have it addressed. The card was issued to me in 2015; I did not realize it was an error,” said Justice Njagi.
“I saw it from day one when the card was issued. I did not think it was an issue. I have a visual issue, and I am diabetic and I occasionally get affected by my sugar issue,” he added.
The judge, who is appearing before the 10-member JSC panel, was also at pains to explain why he had been insisting on traveling to his new stations with his wife, and even demanding that she be paid an allowance.
This was besides concerns that since his stints at the judiciary, he consistently had fights over drivers, a matter that had on numerous occasions, sucked in the registrar of the courts, and even the JSC.
“When I came to Judiciary, I opted to use a civilian and not a police driver. I am not able to deal with police drivers in the sense that I have a rigid schedule because of my health and other issues. I prefer a civilian driver who is flexible and able to respond to my needs,” said Justice Njagi.
And on why he had to travel with his wife: “When you take me to Kericho, my spouse must accompany me, on grounds which are medical. I am entitled to an aide. The issue is that this aide is so special that she has to be my wife. I am not able to live alone. I must have someone who is able to live with me, minus that I will be dead in three days.”
The judge is the fourth candidate appearing before the commission interviewing candidates for the position of Chief Justice that fell vacant following the retirement of Justice David Maraga in February.
[SIZE=6]Clearing of the backlog[/SIZE]
During the interview, Justice Njagi said, as a CJ, he would prioritize the clearing of the backlog of cases in the Judiciary, as well as the integration of technology to improve the efficiency of service delivery.
“I was a celebrity at Sheria House because of my work ethic. And even when I was transferred to Nyeri, there was a public outcry. I have demonstrated all through my career my ability and it all speaks for itself, which I believe is key for the job of Chief Justice. I am a very good material for this job of Chief Justice,” said Justice Njagi.
But the commission further pressed the Labour Court judge, who besides having a law degree also has a diploma in theology, on whether he had used theology to influence his rulings and judgments.
“Even if you are not a Christian, there is some religion that guides you, including African traditional religion. We were not called to (the) judiciary to come and preach, we were called to come and practice judicial law,” he said in response to questions from deputy chief justice Philomena Mwilu.
All the 10 JSC commissioners – Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu (Supreme Court), Justice Mohamed Warsame (Court of Appeal), Justice David Majanja (High Court), Ms Olwande (Chief Magistrates Court), Macharia Njeru (Law Society of Kenya), Ms Ann Amadi (Judiciary Registrar), Mr Kihara Kariuki (Attorney General), Patrick Gichohi (Public Service Commission), Mr Felix Koskei (public representative) and Prof Olive Mugenda (public representative) – are presiding over the selection process.
The JSC will also hire another Supreme Court judge to replace Justice Jackton Ojwang who retired last year.
Justice Njagi was among the first judges to be appointed to the newly created Employment and Labour Relations Court (ELRC) in 2012, under the 2010 Constitution.
The judge has in his eight years of service at the ELRC division, presided over some of the most contested and high-profile labor disputes that led to his suspension for nearly five months.
He was accused of misconduct, impropriety, conflict of interest, and breach of the judicial code of conduct.
On staff motivation, justice Njagi said he would allow judicial officers to form trade unions to champion their issues.
“If I become Chief Justice, I will allow any judicial officer in whatever capacity to form trade unions. It is easier to deal with issues in that manner. It would be easier to deal with issues like salaries in a structured manner,” he said.
Justice Njagi said the misconception people have on him and his decisions, is because of his personality, which is unique and forms only one percent of the world’s population but “makes the best leaders”.
“There are 16 personalities around the world. I belong to the Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging personality group, known as the IFNJ. They are one percent of the world. All my life, I have known I am not an ordinary person. This is a special kind of person who is extra-ordinary who cannot relate to everybody else,” said Justice Njagi. :D:D:D:D