Some lawyers have said President Samia Suluhu Hassan's decision to extend the term of office of Chief Justice Prof. Ibrahim Hamis Juma is not a violation of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania.
Speaking during a special discussion led by the Tanganyika Lawyers Association (TLS) in Dar es Salaam, the lawyers said that no section in the Constitution shows the Chief Justice reaching retirement age not be extended.
Ibrahim Juma is 65 years old. Lawyer Alex Mgongolwa and Attorney Francis Stolla disagree with the statement that the President's decision is unconstitutional.
"There is no word in the Constitution that says when the Chief Justice is 65 years old he cannot be renewed. Retaining the Chief Justice in his seat, or making him stay in his office is not unconstitutional, but in accordance with the same Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania," said Advocate Stolla.
The lawyers' comments come just days after word spread on social media that President Samia Suluhu Hassan has abandoned the Constitution by extending the Chief Justice of Tanzania's term in office after he turns 65.
They have said that neither the Article, nor any words in the Constitution that state the retirement age of the Chief Justice, if you go to read into the Article concerning the retirement age of the Court of Appeal, relating to retaining the Judge of the Court of Appeal shall not apply to the Chief Justice.
"Otherwise, the makers of the Constitution would have intended that they would say the retirement age of the Chief Justice is the same as that of a Court of Appeal judge, except that continuing to sit in office does not apply to the Chief Justice," Advocate Stolla said.
The lawyers have argued that Article 118 (2) does not specify the retirement age of the Chief Justice or the Court of Appeal, but rather the retirement age of the leaders is contained in Article 120 of the Constitution.
"In order to know the retirement age of the Court of Appeal you must go to Article 120 (1) which has declared 65 years, so the age of the Chief Justice to retire is 65 years as is the case with other Court of Appeal Judges," said Lawyer Mgongolwa.
However, the lawyers said Article 120 of the Constitution should be read in line with its sub-articles.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan said that if you read Article (2) states that when the Court of Appeal judge is 65 years old, the President may direct him not to leave the office of the Court of Appeal, while sub-article (3) states that if for the public good, the President deems the Court of Appeal Judge to continue, he shall direct so and the Judge will accept in writing.
"So the age of the Chief Justice of retirement will be found in Article 120 by reading all his sub-articles. Thus, it is possible for the Chief Justice to be in office over the age of 65. "There is no such prohibition in the Constitution," Stolla Lawyer insisted.
The lawyers said that if the President of the United Republic of Tanzania considers the Chief Justice, whose retirement age is the same as that of a Judge of the Court of Appeal, should not leave office in accordance with Article 120 (2) or continue to be in the public interest in accordance with sub-article (3), he may do so.
They have cited the 2005 election in which the President of the Third Phase Government, the late Benjamin William, added the former Chief Justice of Tanzania of the period, Mr. Barnabas Samatta remained in the post for two years.
There have been other arguments about the Attorney General's failure to advise the President on the matter. However, the lawyers said that in accordance with Article 37 of the Constitution, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania is not obliged to agree with the advice of anyone, including the Attorney General.