NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 14 – The entire Contempt of Court Act has been nullified for encroaching on the independence of the Judiciary and due to a lack of public participation during legislation.
Constitution and Human Rights Division Judge Chacha Mwita declared the Act which was published in 2016 null and void after finding that some sections of the latter are inconsistent with the Constitution.
The judge did so after allowing a suit by the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) which had faulted the Act.
The human rights organisation contested the Act arguing that it is intrusive and retrogressive to the extent that it limits powers of the court to punish contempt.
It further contended that the Act promotes impunity in public governance.
The KHRC stated that no contempt proceedings can be instituted against a public officer unless a 30-day notice is issued and served the accounting officer and the AG.
It also disputed a fine of Sh200,000 which it described as intrusive to the inherent power of the court’s to punish contempt.
Contempt is the willful disobedience or disregard of court orders, judgment, decrees of directions
While agreeing with the lobby group, Justice Mwita held that limiting Judiciary’s power can only lead to loss of confidence in the courts.
“The unlawful Act was aimed at making courts less effective given that the power to punish for contempt is the single most important tools courts have to ensure that they remain relevant, effective and administer justice to all without fear or favor,” he declared.
In its suit papers KHRC further argued that sections of the Act are defensive of State officers and tends to shield them from contempt by according them preferential treatment.