, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 22 – ‘When someone holds a gun to your head, show them the bomb you have strapped to your chest,’ legal doyen Harvey Spectre advised his associate Mike Ross in legal drama Suits and while the characters may be fictional, the scenario came to life in the metaphorical sense when the Executive and the union representatives of striking teachers met in the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.
The two sides pulled no punches as the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) sought to deny the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) audience on the grounds that they had failed to honour the Court’s interim orders and as the TSC in turn sought to have the orders requiring them to effect a public school teacher pay hike, suspended.
In readiness for a bruising battle, the two parties brought out the biggest guns in their arsenal with Attorney General Githu Muigai representing the Executive in person and with two Senior Counsel, Ahmednasir Abdullahi and Paul Muite, representing KNUT.
The Executive took the first round when they managed to convince the bench of Justices Philomena Mwilu, Erastus Githinji and Festus Azangalala — in Abdullahi’s absence — to go ahead and give the TSC a hearing and decide later whether to consider their submissions when making their judgment on TSC’s, the Attorney General’s and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission’s consolidated appeals of the High Court decision to grant public school teachers a 50 to 60 percent pay hike.
On entering the ring Abdullahi however successfully managed to bluster KNUT out of the corner they’d been backed into by threatening not to participate any further in the proceedings and foolhardily calling into question the integrity of the bench.
He applied for an adjournment of the proceedings arguing that their challenge to TSC’s right of audience was not simply a matter of procedure but would set the trajectory for the rest of the case. “We need to decide if there’s any point in participating in these proceedings at all.”
He said the bench’s decision to go ahead and grant TSC a hearing before addressing the challenge raised by KNUT caused them to fear that they would not receive a fair hearing particularly in light of the speech President Uhuru Kenyatta gave on Sunday evening detailing why the Executive could not afford to increase the public school teachers’ pay.
It’s for this reason that he also applied for the em-paneling of a five or seven judge bench to hear the matter.
Attorney General Githu Muigai however saw it as a blatant attempt to blackmail the Court into finding for the teachers and called into question the ethical nature of the, “delaying tactic.”
Abdullahi hit back, accusing Muigai of having no ethical standing given the Executive’s failure to honour court directives as far as the teachers’ pay is concerned.“I expected that you should have crawled into this court not have the temerity and audacity to place yourself on an ethical pedestal which both you and I know is made of wood and is creaking.”
Muigai however denied that President Kenyatta, “can’t pay, won’t pay,” public school teachers more, the Courts be damned.
He in turn accused Abdullahi of trying to find a way to, “shop for a bench,” that was likely to find in the teachers’ favour.
Blows exchanged, the judges, “reluctantly,” granted the application for adjournment directing the parties to return to court on September 29.
They however took issue with Abdullahi’s intimation that they were not impartial.
They also left it to the Chief Justice to decide whether or not the matter should be heard before a five judge bench but remained mum on the TSC’s bid to put off paying teachers an extra 50 to 60 percent as directed by the High Court.