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Contempt of Court Act invalid, Judge rules

The High Court on Friday declared the entire Contempt of Court Act invalid for lack of public participation.

In his ruling, Justice Chacha Mwita also declared Section 35 of the same Act as unconstitutional. “I declare the entire Contempt of Court Art invalid for lack of public participation,” said Judge.

Declaration was made following a case filed at the Constitutional Court by Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), which had challenged the law on grounds that it limits powers of courts and shields public officers from harsh punishment.

The commission had informed the court that the law would allow public officers to openly disregard court directives, such as summons to appear in court.

They urged the court to declare the law inconsistent with the Constitution and nullified.

 KHRC also told the court that Contempt of Court Act of 2016 reverses gains made under the Constitution and should not be allowed to stand.

The commission said the law was put in place without public consultations despite the fact that the Constitution puts a premium on public input. The law was assented to in December 2016.

The watchdog organisation had said that the law provides a fertile breeding ground for corruption and the genesis of a lawless society, where public servants will abuse power with impunity as they can afford to pay the meagre fine.

The contempt of court law imposes only Sh200, 000 penalty, which is an insignificant amount and will not have the force of penal sanction in punishing contempt, the human rights agency says.

The KHRC contends that the law waters down courts’ powers and renders them helpless and helpless in the face of defiance of orders.

The Judiciary has complained several times about disobedience of court orders by politicians.

The Act takes this country back to the age when public officers could openly compete with courts for power and defiance in total violation to the Constitution,” the suit paper by KHRC reads.

According to Section 35 which was declared null and void, it states that the provisions of this Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provision of any other written law relating to contempt of court.

The commission claimed that it is retrogressive to the extent that it promotes impunity and arbitrariness in public governance and among public officers. It said that the law violates Article 10 of the Constitution, which makes good governance a national value.

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