By Naomi Njoroge,
Justice Said Juma Chitembwe on Monday, April 12, was the first to face the Judicial Service Commission panel in the process to find a new Chief Justice to succeed David Maraga who retired earlier this year.
Among those in the JSC panel are the acting Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, JSC vice-chairperson Olive Mugenda, and Justice Mohammed Abdullahi Warsame.
Justice Chitembwe field many questions from the panelists including on his stand on the controversial Sexual Offenses Act, domestic violence, judicial independence and accountability, and productivity of the Judiciary.
Responding to the questions on his previous handling of cases brought under the Sexual Offenses Act, Justice Chitembwe said that he still upholds that judicial officers should look at the circumstances in each case before applying the minimum sentence.
“The issue is the social aspect of the law… It’s an issue of interpretation…I am not saying that the age of consent should be lowered,” said Justice Chitembwe.
In an elaboration, Justice Chitembwe said an 18-year-old boy who is charged with defiling a 17-year-old girl with whom he was involved in a sexual relationship should not be judged as harshly as another person who dragged a girl to a bush and defiled her.
In the latter, Chitembwe said the suspect should not be given the minimum sentence, which is likely to be imposed on the former.
On the issue of rising domestic violence cases, Justice Chitembwe said the Judiciary should ensure that those who are implicated are prosecuted.
Religion and the law
When asked about how he will handle religious matters that are contrary to the law, Justice Chitembwe said that the law should supersede in line with the Constitution.
Nonetheless, the judge expressed his opinion that the question may not have been asked in good faith since he is a Muslim.