High Court dismisses Justice Ombija’s petition challenging his vetting

High Court dismisses Justice Ombija’s petition challenging his vetting

The High Court has dismissed an application by Justice Nicholas Ombija contesting a decision by the Judges and Magistrate Vetting Board that found him unsuitable to hold office.

Ombija had sued the vetting board, claiming that they acted illegally when they re-vetted him, yet he had already opted to retire.

In his ruling, Justice Weldon Korir concurred with the vetting board, saying the option to retire was no longer available to him.

The Judge also observed that the court has no jurisdiction to determine the suit by Ombija.

Ombija had initially successfully challenged his removal at the Supreme Court which ordered for his re-vetting, but Ombija opted to retire instead of facing fresh vetting.

However, the vetting board rejected his retirement and instead had him go through the second vetting which he challenged again.

In late March,  Ombija described as unlawful the decision by the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board to declare him unfit to serve in the Judiciary after he resigned.

The High Court Judge, through lawyers Francis Wasuna and Roger Sagana, told Justice Weldon Korir that he had resigned by the time the board issued the verdict.

Wasuna said that the board vetted the Judge in absentia, even though he had withdrawn his response to the panel, adding that vetting a Judge who has retired is not authorised in law.

The lawyers added that the move to declare the Judge unfit to hold office, contravened the law because, it was made by three members of the vetting panel, while the law requires nine members to decide.

The board said the Judge would still be grilled saying it did not recognize his resignation letter as it was addressed to the board instead of his employer, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

In his retirement letter, Justice Ombija quoted the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates’ Act, which gives Judges the option of either being vetted or retiring from office.

Justice Ombija was found unfit to hold office in 2012 by the board due to his temperament. However, he continued serving as a Judge as he awaited the vetting board’s decision.

Ombija was to undergo fresh vetting after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board in a judgement made in November last year.