1.On October 7, 2022, Marete J granted conservatory order restraining the respondents, their servants and/or agents from implementing the impugned decision contained in the letters to the petitioners dated August 28, 2022, September 6, 2022 and September 7, 2022, which sent the petitioners to compulsory leave and further appointed other persons to act as Chief Administrative Officers in place of the petitioners. The order was to remain in force until the application dated October 4, 2022 was heard and determined.
2.On October 17, 2022 the claimants brought another Notice of Motion dated even date seeking the following orders:-
3.The application is premised on the grounds set out in the body of the Motion and the Supporting Affidavit sworn by the 1st Petitioner on October 17, 2022. In brief the applicant contended that the order made on October 7, 2022 was served upon the respondents and the interested parties but they have blatantly failed or refused to allow the applicants back to their officers; that the respondents have instructed the interested parties to stay put in acting capacities; and that they have all vowed publically to disrespect the said court orders.
4.Further the applicants contended that every person, against whom an order has been made by a court of competent jurisdiction has plain and unqualified obligation to obey it unless and until the order is discharged. Consequently, the applicants urged the court to punish the Respondents and the interested parties for contempt of court to safeguard the authority of the court, sanctity of court orders and the rule of law, which is fundamental in the administration of justice.
5.The Respondents opposed the application vide a Replying Affidavit sworn on January 12, 2023 by Mr Rufus J M Miriti, County Secretary, who deposed that the petitioners are still employees of the County Government of Meru in their respective Boards and they are drawing their full employment benefits; that upon issuance of the conservatory order, the applicants were invited to resume work but they declined to do so; that the respondents hold judiciary and this court in high esteem and they would not disobey directions issued by court; that if door locks were changed and goons deployed to bar the claimants entry to their offices, that was not under the control or instructions from the respondents; that the alleged actions by the interested parties and third parties have no nexus with the respondents and that the issues raised herein are now spent because they are the subject matter in Meru HC Petition No E024 of 2022 Hon.Kawira Mwangaza v County Assembly of Meru & Another. Consequently, they prayed for the application to be dismissed with costs.
6.In a supplementary affidavit sworn on January 16, 2023, the 1st claimant maintained that the respondents have publically vowed that they will not allow the claimants back to their offices and have deployed goons armed with crude weapons to prevent the claimants from accessing their offices; that the respondents have refused to cancel the letters deploying the interested parties to replace the claimants in position they held; that the letters sending the claimants to compulsory leave have also not been cancelled since the court order was issued on October 7, 2022; that the door locks have been replaced to deny the claimants access to their offices; and that the Meru HC Petition No E024 of 2022 deals with impeachment of the Governor by the County Assembly and therefore it has no relationship with the instant matter at all.
7.It was submitted for the applicants that the proposed interested party’s are necessary in these proceedings because they were appointed to act in the positions held by the applicants as per the exhibits annexed to the petition herein. Further the interested parties have in disobedience of the court order acted on instructions from the respondents to stay put and not to allow the applicants back to their offices. Therefore the court was urged to allow joinder of the proposed interested parties in order to enable the court to effectively and completely adjudicate upon and settle at the questions in the petition.
8.As regards contempt of court order, it was submitted that there is a valid or unambiguous court order issued against the respondents, they are aware of it and/or they have been served with it but they have disobeyed it. Consequently, the court was urged to find that the respondents and the interested parties are guilty of contempt of court order made on October 7, 2022, and punish them by sending them to prison for six months.
9.To fortify the above submissions, the petitioners relied on several authorities including Shimmers Plaza Ltd v National Bank of Kenya Ltd (2015) eKLR where the Court of Appeal held that knowledge supersedes personal service of a court order. The applicants further submitted that the power to punish for contempt of court is provided under Section 5 of the Judicature Act.
10.On the other hand it was submitted for the respondents that the applicants are still employees of the County Government of Meru, they are drawing their full salaries and other benefits, no letters of termination or deployment or leave have been issued to them after the said court order, and no appointment letters have been issued to any other party by the respondents to replace the applicants from their job positions.
11.Further, it was submitted that the application is defective because it anchored on provisions of the Contempt of Court Act No 46 of 2016, which is non-existent, the same having been declared unconstitutional by the High Court in Kenya Human Rights Commission v Attorney General & Another (2018) eKLR. Consequently, it was submitted that the applicable law in contempt proceedings in Section 5 of the Judicature Act and the failure to invoke it has rendered the application fatally defective since the omission cannot be cured by Article 159 of the Constitution.
13.It was further submitted that the application is sub-judice because the contempt of court issue is pending in Meru HC Petition No E024 of 2022 Hon.Kawira Mwangaza v County Assembly of Meru & another. Reference was made to the petition annexed as exhibit RM-2, paragraph 56, 57, 74 and 75 where the issue of contempt of court orders issued by this court are pleaded. The said issue was framed as a ground for impeachment of the Governor which necessitated 3rd Respondent to seek redress in the High Court. Consequently, it was submitted that the issue of contempt of court should be left to the Constitutional court to determine so as to avoid conflicting decisions over the matter. For emphasis, reliance was placed on the case of Beatrice Muthoni Gathima & 2 Others v Arthur Wambugu Muiga & 4 others (2022) eKLR.
14.As regards the merits of the application it was submitted that the applicant has not discharged the evidentiary burden of proof that the respondents have indeed disobeyed the court order, and the manner in which the orders was disobeyed. Further, the screenshots produced as exhibits are not authentic as no certificate of electronic evidence has been produced as required under Section 106 B (2) and 106 (4) the Evidence Act. Reliance was placed on Aggrey Wafula v Public Service Commission & 5 others (2022) eKLR where the court dismissed contempt proceedings for failure to produce evidence of probative value and failing to demonstrate the manner in which the orders were disregarded by the respondents.
15.Finally it was submitted that there is no evidence produced to show that the 2nd and 3rd Respondents disregarded the court order herein. For emphasis, reliance was placed on Kenya National Union of Nurses v County Government of Meru & Another (2022) eKLR where Marete J dismissed contempt proceedings for lack of evidence to disobedience of court order by the respondent. Consequently, the respondents urged this court to dismiss the application for want of proof of the alleged disobedience.
16.The issues for determination are:-a.Whether the application if fatally incompetent.b.Whether the application is subjudice.c.Whether the respondents and the interested parties should be cited for contempt of court order issued on October 7, 2022.d.Whether the proposed interested parties should be joined as such in the proceedings herein.
17.The respondents contend that the application herein is fatally defective because it is brought under a non-existent law, Contempt of Court Act which was declared unconstitutional by the High Court in 2018. The applicants are in agreement that the proper law is Section 5 of the Judicature Act. I have carefully considered the objection by the respondents. Order 51 Rule 10(1) provides that:
19.The instant application is brought under Section 3, 4(1) (a), 5, 28 and 34 of the Contempt of Court Act No 46 of 2016, Section 1A and 3A of the Civil Procedure Act and Order 51 Rule 1 of the Civil Procedure Rules and all the other enabling provisions of the law. Obviously the substantive provisions upon which the application is anchored is the Contempt of Court Act No 46 of 2016. It is common ground and the court takes judicial notice that the said statute was declared unconstitutional by the High Court. The said decision has not been set aside and I see no reason why I should not uphold it.
20.It follows that the jurisdiction of this court to punish the respondents has been invoked through a non-existent legislation. In Michael Mungai case, supra, the Supreme Court held that no right can be derived from a repealed law. The said omission is a substantive issue that goes to the jurisdiction of the court. It is not a mere technicality which can be cured by Article 159 (2) (d) of the Constitution and Order 51 Rule 10(1) of the Civil Procedure Rules. As the matters stand now, I must hold that the jurisdiction of the court was not properly invoked and the application is struck out with costs.