, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 26 – Chief Justice Willy Mutunga is insistent that he will retire come June despite concerns that it may leave the Supreme Court short of the five judges it requires to be properly constituted.
The full bench consists of seven judges but according to the High Court, two of them – other than Mutunga – should have retired at 70; a judgement his deputy Kalpana Rawal and Justice Philip Tunoi have challenged in the Court of Appeal.
Mutunga however told Capital FM News that he was not concerned about a “numbers crisis” in the Supreme Court should the three be retired at the same time.
He said he was confident the Court of Appeal would dispense with the hearing and determination of Rawal and Tunoi’s appeals against retirement in good time and that the Judicial Service Commission would undertake their replacement with the same sense of timing.
He said it was imperative that a new Chief Justice be in place prior to the 2017 General Election to avoid an actual crisis. “If I retire in June next year which is when I attain the retirement age of 70, we’ll only have about five weeks to select my replacement given the General Election is in August.
“A year is sufficient time to deal with any legal challenges that may arise. Besides, there are over 40 judges who want to be the next Chief Justice.”
It is however worth noting that as things stand, there are currently only six judges on the Supreme Court bench following the suspension of Justice Tunoi who has been accused of taking a Sh200 million bribe.
And ousted Nyaribari Chache MP Chris Bichage has petitioned the Supreme Court for a full-bench hearing of an application challenging Richard Tongi’s win in a by-election.
Mutunga said he was speaking for the last time on his retirement on Friday.
He brought up the subject at the launch of a book, balancing the scales of electoral justice, outlining the lessons learnt by the Judiciary in its handling of the 2013 election petitions.
And one of the most “significant” lessons, he said, was the necessity for the time given in the Constitution for the hearing of a Presidential Petition to be extended from 14 days to 30.
He also said it was necessary for the overlap in the mandates of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and of the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal, to be addressed.