The Chief Justice of Kenya, Martha Koome, has announced significant changes to the three-judge bench recently established to examine petitions challenging President William Ruto’s appointment of 50 Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS). In a noteworthy alteration, Justice Aleem Visram will replace Justice John Onyiego, alongside Justices Kanyi Kimondo and Hedwig Ong’udi.
The court’s deputy registrar, Tessy Marienga, informed involved parties of the bench’s revised composition and announced that the case will be mentioned virtually on April 28, 2023, with Justice Kimondo presiding.
At the heart of the dispute are the presidential powers to create positions within the public service and whether the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) advice is legally binding. Two petitions filed last month argue that the President appointed 27 additional CASs beyond the 23 recommended by the PSC.
Prominent appointees include President Ruto’s allies, such as digital communication strategist Denis Itumbi, Benjamin Washiali, and Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, among others.
The initial petitions prompted the court to issue a temporary order barring the CASs from assuming their respective positions or receiving public salaries. However, some parties involved in the lawsuit, including the CAS for Information Communication and Technology, Mr. Dennis Itumbi, have questioned the High Court’s authority to hear the dispute, arguing that it falls within the scope of the Employment and Labour Relations Court.
Additionally, the CASs are seeking to have the temporary injunction order lifted, claiming irregular issuance. Lawyer Adrian Kamotho, representing Mr. Itumbi, argued that there is no law limiting the number of Chief Administrative Secretaries to 23 and that the petitioners “fraudulently misled the court.”
As the case continues to unfold, its outcome will likely hold significant implications for presidential powers within the public service and the future of the newly-appointed CASs.