Remarks made by The Hon. Dr. Justice Willy Mutunga, D.Jur, SC, E.G.H. Chief Justice/President, Supreme Court of Kenya, At the Kenya Law Launch on 30th April, 2014.
May 6, 2014
Honorable Judges and Magistrates present,
Members of the Council for Law Reporting,
Colleagues from the Judiciary and other government agencies,
Mr. Mamadou Biteye – Managing Director, Rockefeller Africa ,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is a pleasure to welcome you here today.
The National Council for Law Reporting has over the years established Kenya as the only African country, and among the few countries in the world, that provides comprehensive, quality and up to date free online access to public legal information. Kenya law reports ceased to exist in 1980 and the NCLR revived Law reporting in 2002, ending two decades of practicing law in the dark. When we talk of Kenya’s or Africa’s ‘lost decades’, law reporting was certainly one of them. It is remarkable that the rapid decline in the rule of law, and the shrinking of freedom and liberties in this country, coincided rather neatly with the disappearance of law reporting. I want to thank NCLR for doing a splendid job since its inception. What we are doing today is one more demonstration of this great journey.
The organization has in the last year undertaken the upgrade of its website to improve its accessibility and functionality. The Council has also developed a user-friendly and modern digital platform for the Kenya Gazette. This is a great milestone for Kenya and is in keeping with the state’s constitutional duty to provide its citizens with access to quality, reliable and authoritative public legal information. Indeed, the scope, quality and accessibility of the website and the Kenya Gazette will make Kenya a world leader in that regard. NCLR’s versatile and innovative use of technology to provide legal information is testament to the functional utility of technology to advance the public interest. We at the judiciary have to learn from you where our massive investment in technology has merely provided avenue for graft and opportunities for abuse by individuals and institutions who have no respect for the law and morality. As we have stated in our Judiciary Transformation Framework, technology should be an enabler for justice not a platform for criminality and vile conduct. Judges want to feel safe and secure sharing their draft judgments as they e-conference on cases, and not be worried that strange individuals lacking in the basics of decency, or media houses lacking in the basics of professional ethics, are intercepting and broadcasting their communication.
The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 places an obligation on every citizen to respect, uphold and defend the Constitution. This obligation, and indeed the obligation placed on the citizen to obey the other laws as well, necessarily gives rise to a duty on the State to publish the law. The citizen’s obligation can therefore only be properly discharged where the citizen has easy access to an accurate, reliable and authoritative source of the text of the law.
Indeed, in the Bill of Rights, the Constitution establishes the citizen’s right to access ‘information held by the State’ and places a duty on the State to ‘publish and publicize important information affecting the nation’.
As the Judiciary,we strongly believe that the free flow of information is fundamental for both access to knowledge and the development of our society. Public legal information is part of the common heritage of humanity and maximizing access to this information promotes justice and the rule of law. Such information, which includes the primary sources of law, should therefore be accessible to all citizens. Indeed, a law reporting system that is weak and incompetent impoverishes the practice of law in our courts.
The National Council for Law Reporting has made access to quality legal information possible through its website and continues to avail legal information to Kenyans.The products we have unveiled here today will no doubt further enhance access to this information.
Further, thanks to the supportfrom the Rockefeller Foundation, Kenyans can now access the Kenya Gazette online on a friendly user-interface that provides easy search and retrieval of current and past editions of the Gazette. This is no mean achievement and we must celebrate the Council for making this possible.
At the Judiciary we have recognized that we are part of the engine of societal transformation and so we have adopted a culture of service that is people centred. We are consciously aiming to create an environment that supports the delivery of justice, upholds the rights of the Kenyan people and promotes national values.
I urge the Judiciary and other arms of Government to mainstream Impact Sourcing in the delivery of their mandate. In this way, they will not only deliver services to the citizenry but also positively impact the lives of the vulnerable and the socio-economically disadvantaged.
The National Council for Law Reporting is making a bold promise. It understandsits role as the agency through which Kenya’s robust, indigenous, patriotic and progressive jurisprudence will be monitored, reported and also packaged for the benefit of Kenya’s legal environment and also as a product for export to other jurisdictions.
We also acknowledge our social justice obligation to provide public legal information that is open and accessible, and so by this launch we are renewing our promise to the Kenyan people to be the gold standard by which law reporting and access to public legal information is measured. The people of Kenya, from whom our mandate is derived, the letter and spirit of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 and the Judiciary Transformation Framework requires nothing less of us.
We have therefore renewed our minds and rededicated ourselves to the national values and principles of public service set out in the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 and we have re-engineered our systems and processes to exceed the expectationsof the people of Kenya and our stakeholders. The essence of this renewal is expressed in a new brand identity – KENYA LAW.
This however does not mean that the Council has changed its legal name. It has merely adopted a brand name – Kenya Law. While the Institution and its products will be more popularly known by its brand name, its legal and statutory name remains the National Council for Law Reporting.
In conclusion, the essence of Kenya Law’s renewed sense of obligation is captured in its new slogan “Where Legal Information is Public Knowledge”. Am glad the Council has come to an enlightened understanding of its mandate and made a commitment to not merely be a provider of public legal information but also be the people’s fountain of knowledge and understanding of the law for the promotion of the rule of law and the advancement of a civilized society.
I would like to acknowledge and appreciate the leadership provided by the Members of the Council for Law Reporting; the innovativeness, diligence and dedication of the team at the Secretariat of the Council,and the technical and financial support of the Attorney General, The Rockefeller Foundation and our other development partners. I want to make special recognition to the immediate outgoing Chief Editor of NCLR, Mr. Michael Murungi, for his extraordinary contribution in making the Council what it is. It now gives me great pleasure to unveil the new brand identity for the National Council for Law Reporting – Kenya Law. Asanteni.
Dr. Willy Mutunga, D.Jur, SC, E.G.H.
Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya,
Nairobi, 30thApril, 2014.