The senior most judge serving in the Supreme Court will take over as the acting Chief Justice (CJ) in the absence of both the CJ and the Deputy Chief Justice (DCJ), reads an amendment to the Judicial Service Act.
The amendment is part of other amendments that include the retirement age of judges and the benefits a retired chief justice is entitled to which have been proposed for the judiciary as contained in the statute law miscellaneous amendment bill 2016 that proposes minor amendments to various laws.
According to the bill, the judge will perform all the administrative duties of the chief justice if a vacancy occurs in the office of both the CJ and DCJ or when both are absent.
Reads the amendment: “under the provision the senior most judges in the Supreme Court shall perform the administrate duties of the chief justice in the absence of both the chief justice and deputy chief justice.”
The amendments comes after last year there was a crisis in the judiciary over who to take over following the exit of former chief justice Willy Mutunga and deputy chief justice Kalpana Rawal.
It is following this background that Mutunga appointed Justice Mohamed Ibrahim to act as Supreme Court president following his exit.
Justice Ibrahim was to administer matters of the Supreme Court; Justice Paul Kariuki was to oversee Court of Appeal issues while Justice Richard Mwongo was to be in charge of the High Court.
Consequently the law which passed the second reading last week and will now come for third reading where amendments will be introduced, has also moved to end the controversy on retirement age for judicial officers.
According to the bill sponsored by leader of majority Aden Duale, judges will retire at the age of 70 years but they are free to vacate office any time after attaining the age of 65 years.
While debating the bill Justice and legal affairs deputy chairperson and Nyeri county mp Pricilla Nyokabi said that the main aim of the amendment is to ensure that they do away with all the doubts on the retirement age for judges.
Last year Rawal and Justice Philip Tunoi challenged their retirement at 70 saying they were employed under the old constitution that capped the retirement age of judges at 74.
The two judges however lost their bid and were forced to exit from the judiciary after they lost a retirement case at the high court and the Court of Appeal which ruled that their retirement to be 70 years.
Reads the bill: “the bill proposes to amend the judicature act to align it with article 167 (1) of the constitution on the retirement age for judges. The proposal arises as a result of the need for clarity in the retirement age for judges for avoidance of doubt.”
Meanwhile the new amendments have also proposed the inclusion of retired chief justice as among those who will benefit once they retire from office.
According to the amendment, a retire d chief justice shall during his or her life time be entitled to a monthly pension equal to eighty percent of the monthly salary of the entitled person’s last month salary while in office, a lump sum payment on retirement, one saloon vehicle with an engine capacity not exceeding 2000 cc and one four wheel drive of an engine capacity not exceeding 3000cc replicable every year.
The retired chief justice shall also be entitled to a fuel allowance equal to 15 percent of current monthly salary of the office holder, full medical and hospital cover among others.