President Uhuru Kenyatta has suspended High Court Justice Said Juma Chitembwe and appointed a tribunal to probe allegations of gross misconduct.
In a gazette notice dated May 18, the President appointed a 12-member team to inquire into the allegations against the judge and determine his suitability.
Justice Chitembwe’s suspension comes after the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) recommended the President form a tribunal to probe the judge’s conduct in line with the Constitution.
The President notes that the JSC petition contains grave allegations against the judge and that this could potentially erode Kenyans’ faith in the fair administration of justice.
“Upon consideration of the petition of the Judicial Service Commission, together with its annexures, His Excellency has suspended Justice Chitembwe Judge of the High Court of Kenya, from office with immediate effect,” reads the notice.
Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi will chair the tribunal, while the lead counsel is Senior Counsel Kiragu Kimani assisted by Edward Omotii Nyang’au and Joseph Gitonga Riungu.
Other tribunal members are Justices Nzioki wa Makau, Abida Ali Aroni, Senior Counsel Fred Ojiambo, Lt. Gen. (Rtd.) Jackson W. Ndung’u, James Ochieng’ Oduol, and Dr Lydia Nzomo.
Jasper M. Mbiuki and Sarah Yamo will serve as joint secretaries.
During the JSC inquiry, several petitions were filed against the judge among them, one filed by former governor Mike Sonko, accusing the judicial officer of advising Mr Sonko that the judgment, which upheld his removal as the Nairobi county boss, should be set aside because there was coercion, bribery, and fraud.
Another complaint was filed by Mr Francis Wambua, claiming the judge had involved himself in various acts of gross judicial misconduct, including discussing the merits of a matter pending in court with third parties.
The grounds for the removal of a judge include the inability to perform the functions of office arising from mental or physical incapacity, breach of a code of conduct prescribed for judges, bankruptcy, incompetence or gross misconduct or misbehaviour.
Once the JSC considers the petition and is satisfied that the petition discloses a ground for removal, it sends the petition to the President.
During his suspension, the judge receives half the pay until the conclusion of the probe, depending on the outcome of whether he will be sacked or reinstated.
If the judge is aggrieved by the recommendation for the removal, he may appeal against the decision before the Supreme Court, within 10 days.