We’ll be fair in Tunoi graft probe, says team

Judge to be allowed to choose whether he wants case heard in private or public

Tuesday March 8 2016

Sharad Rao, chairman of the tribunal set up to probe bribery allegations against Justice Philip Tunoi, addresses the media after taking an oath on March 2, 2016. Speaking on March 7, 2016 in Nairobi, Mr Rao said the tribunal's investigations will be fair to Justice Tunoi. PHOTO | ROBERT NGUGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Sharad Rao, chairman of the tribunal set up to probe bribery allegations against Justice Philip Tunoi, addresses the media after taking an oath on March 2, 2016. Speaking on March 7, 2016 in Nairobi, Mr Rao said the tribunal's investigations will be fair to Justice Tunoi. PHOTO | ROBERT NGUGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ABIUD OCHIENG
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Suspended Supreme Court Judge Philip Tunoi will be allowed to decide whether investigations into allegations of corruption against him should be conducted in private or public.

Mr Sharad Rao, who is chairing the tribunal investigating Justice Tunoi, said Monday they had taken the decision because they wanted to be fair to the accused and would assume he is innocent until proven otherwise.

“It is in the JSC Act that a judge under investigation decides whether he wants the proceedings done in public or private and so this is his right,” said Mr Rao.

He said the tribunal would start work next week after the swearing-in of the seventh member of the group, Justice (rtd) Jonathan Havelock.

Mr Rao, who spoke in Nairobi, said his team had agreed on how the case would proceed.

The tribunal has already developed the rules and procedures to be used, Mr Rao said, adding that the rules outlining how the team would conduct its business would be gazetted by Friday.

Last week, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga presided over the swearing-in of members of the tribunal — including Mr Rao, Justice Roseline Korir, Ms Judith Guserwa, Mr James Kaberere Gacoka, Mr Abdirashid Abdullahi Hussein and Mr George Munji Wakukha.

There were claims that Justice Havelock had refused to chair the tribunal due to some Sh8 million the government reportedly owes him.

There were also concerns Mr Rao was not be an ideal choice for chairman because he is 80, which disqualifies him from being appointed a judge.

However, Mr Rao said claims against Justice Havelock were untrue and that the delay was due to other commitments.

HELD UP IN TANZANIA

“The last time I spoke to Justice Havelock, he indicated he was held up in Tanzania, but we hope he will be able to fly back to be sworn in so that the work can start,” said Mr Rao.

The tribunal will investigate claims that Justice Tunoi received a Sh202 million bribe from Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero to influence an election petition filed against him by the current Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu.

Mr Rao also denied claims the tribunal might favour Justice Tunoi because he had earlier been cleared by the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board, which he also chaired.

He explained that at the time there were no allegations of corruption against Justice Tunoi and that the decision reached then was by a nine-member board.

The same objectivity would be employed in the case, Mr Rao pledged.

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