It appears that every year, the Judicial Service Commission must take us through a ritual of Transfer of judicial staff. Since the Honourable Justice Mutunga took up the mantle, the Judiciary has had uninterrupted internal wriggling. On 22nd June 2011, the Chief Justice himself was appointed. Soon thereafter, a group of other senior judges particularly in the Supreme Court were appointed in the year 2012. Then Vetting began and with the exit of a number of Judges, others were recruited to replace them and new postings became inevitable. The Judicature Act was amended leading to a massive increase of judges in the superior court.
In the year 2014, the newly appointed Judges were posted to various stations. Before they even settled, there was another major reshuffle in the year 2015.
Suddenly, certain judges are retiring and others are hanging on court orders to delay their retirements. Vacancies in the Judiciary are once again in plenty.
The magistrates court have not been left out in the fray. In the year 2015, there was not only a radical transfer of magistrates but also a massive transfer of clerical staff leading to a partial paralysis in some stations.
Just when Justice Mutunga is about to exit the Judiciary, it is apparent that he cannot do so without conducting the customary annual ritual of transfers.
These transfers do not come without effects. They are so disruptive and sudden that litigants & practitioners loath them.
One can imagine that Judges who were oblivious of the fact that they are on transfer gave hearing dates throughout the year. For instance, your truly has some matters that are partly heard before say Justice Ogola of the Commercial Division at Nairobi who shall move to Machakos from 1st of June.
The matters are spread from May - July. Of course, the Judge will not move to his new station with the part heard matters. Neither will he keep on reporting back to his station to hear them. Honestly, it is only slightly more than a month between the announcement of the transfers and the date of reporting to the new station.
The Judges will not take any new matters and the litigants will be asked to take dates at the registry notwithstanding that the year 2016 diary is full.
The Judges will not be able to complete their part heards as they have less than a month to move. From now on-wards, they will only concentrate on writing pending rulings and judgments.
The gains made by these transfers are surpassed by the disruptive effects of the same.
Transfers are important. However, they must be done with some common sense. There must be mitigation mechanisms to counter the adverse effects. Why cant the notices on transfer be longer - say 6 months or one year? Do we really need transfers annually? Moving forward, we can only ask The Judicial Service Commission to feel litigants as well as practitioners and act rationally rather than capriciously while undertaking such exercises.