Vocal Kandara Member of Parliament Alice Wahome has slammed Justice Juma Chitembwe over a case in which he set free a man serving a 20-year jail term for defiling a 13-year-old girl.
In his 2016 ruling, Justice Chitembwe argued it was wrong to hand the man the heavy punishment when both were enjoying the relationship.
But according to Wahome, Chitambwe’s ruling was unconstitutional and therefore he should not be serving in the judiciary.
“Looking at the judgement he gave, he applied his own personal beliefs as opposed to interpreting the law. He should have been summoned by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and should also be facing a tribunal after this,” Wahome said.
On Monday, April 13, Chitembwe appeared before the JSC as the search for Kenya’s next Chief Justice intensified.
The JSC is searching for Kenya’s third Chief Justice under the 2010 Constitution following the retirement of Justice David Maraga on January 12, 2021.
Justice Chitembwe was the first of the 10 candidates to be interviewed for the job. Only one candidate will be interviewed each day. Wahome further said Chitembwe should not be serving in the judiciary right now.
“You may be wrong on the law but it is not because you are using your own beliefs and maybe community set up to influence or to come up with a judgement that totally read against the law you were out-rightly wrong.”
The former Parliamentary Justice and Legal Affairs Committee vice-chairperson also faulted JSC on what she termed as failing the country.
“He said that according to him, he looked at the boy who was 20 years and then the girl who was 17 and almost ripe for marriage in a year. The law applies the age of maturity which is 18 years. I think it is very unfortunate that a Judge is now imagining that the JSC would feel sorry for him if he weeps.”
The Parliamentary Justice and Legal Affairs committee vets the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice.
“We need to look at the Judiciary in light of where the country is both the Executive and Parliament. The oversight role of Parliament has been rendered useless by an overbearing Executive. The same overbearing Executive that is exercising its muscle its political privilege over members of parliament is the same Executive that is overbearing on the judiciary,” she said.
The Kandara MP added the country needs a chief justice who is not in a very cordial relationship with the current executive.
“There are individuals who have acted for this executive. They should not get this job. There is a personal relationship with some of the applicants with the current executive and therefore those are people we should keep away from,” she explained.
Wahome also lamented that the chief justice who takes over from Maraga may face challenges since 41 judges have to date not been appointed, which is against the constitution.
“This must have over-weighed down the performance of Maraga because he was denied the relevant personnel. A Chief Justice must be firm. He should be able to remember that his work is not to dance with the Executive,” she added.
According to Wahome, the Judiciary should rather stay without a budget for a year but must maintain its independence of decision-making in terms of dispensing justice.
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