Friday, February 24, 2017

Is a legislature a court of appeal?

When should a legislative body review actions of military authorities in specific cases, rather than generically? That question is posed by a current controversy involving a former member of the Kenya Defence Forces. As reported here:
A former soldier is making an unusual appeal to the National Assembly. 
Benjamin Chelang'a wants lawmakers to get the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) to change the classification of his conduct on his termination certificate from "good" to "very good." 
Mr Chelang'a was a corporal in the KDF. In the petition sent to the House by Speaker Justin Muturi, he says he was unfairly disciplined on the basis of a false accusation, thrown in prison for 42 days and then dismissed from service even after seeking early retirement. 
He claims these actions violated the Constitution's provisions on the rights of workers and the provisions of the Employment Act. 
"The Petitioner therefore prays that the National Assembly examines the legitimacy of the process applied in his dismissal and in the classification of his conduct as 'Good' instead of 'Very Good' as indicated in the termination of service certificate," Mr Muturi said.
Mr Muturi said that although the issues raised by Mr Chelang'a can be settled at a Court Martial, the Constitution provides that the National Assembly deliberate on and resolve issues of concern to the people. 
"It may be well that the grievances of the Petitioner may be resolved without having to [resort] to a Court Martial process," said Mr Muturi. 
Mr Chelang'a's petition will be considered by the Labour and Social Welfare Committee, which Mr Muturi directed to examine the issues the former soldier raises and report back on the matter within 60 days as required by the standing orders. 
Mr Chelang'a's petition is likely to offer MPs, and the public at large, a rare glimpse into the military's internal disciplinary processes as well as measure how far the lawmakers' powers can go.
Some countries have established administrative tribunals to address such matters, taking the burden off legislatures to enact private laws to correct military errors and injustices. In the U.S. this was done in 1946. The civilian boards for correction of military and naval records adjudicate thousands of cases, large and small, each year. There are also uniformed discharge review boards. These boards' decisions are subject to judicial review. 

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