1.Before me for consideration is a reference by way of chamber summons, dated 12.4.22 (the Reference) in which the Applicant seeks the following orders:
2.The Reference is premised on the grounds that the Taxing Master erred in principle in taxing the Bill of Costs and that the taxed costs are inordinately low. Further that the Taxing Master erred in law in assessing instructions fee as though she were taxing an ordinary suit, yet it was a constitutional petition. The Taxing Master further failed to take into consideration the Applicant’s submissions dated 11.03.22, thereby reaching an erroneous decision.
3.In a replying affidavit sworn on 24.2.23 by Eric Obwao, its Ag. County Solicitor, the Client/Respondent argued that the Taxing Master in making the determination in question correctly applied Schedule 6(j) of the Advocates remuneration Order (ARO) and considered the factors set out therein. Further, that the Taxing Master considered the cases cited in the submissions by both parties as indicated in paragraph 10 of the ruling. Having considered all the factors and having the benefit of assessing the cause from which the Bill of Costs arose, the Taxing Master proceeded to find correctly, that the amount sought by the Advocate/Applicant was grossly excessive, as indicated in paragraph 17 of the ruling. The Client/Respondent urged the Court to uphold the decision of the Taxing master.
4.The record shows that the Bill of Costs in question relates to relates to the Advocate/Applicant’s representation of the Client/Respondent in Constitutional Petition No. 474 of 2015. The petitioner therein alleged that its constitutional rights had been violated and sought declaratory orders that the bylaw which the respondent exploited to institute criminal proceedings against the petitioner’s chief security officer are unconstitutional for violation of Article 40(2)(a) and (b) of the Constitution.
5.This Court has considered the written submissions filed by the parties together with the authorities cited.
6.The Advocate/Applicant submitted that the Taxing Master failed to take into account their submissions dated 11.03.22 and thus arrived at an inordinately low figure as to amount to an injustice. This, it was submitted, is itself an error in principle. Further, that inordinately low fees is unjust and prejudicial to the practice of an advocate. It was further submitted that the Applicant/Advocate acted and successfully defended the Client/Respondent in the petition in which the petitioner was seeking a declaration that the City of Nairobi (Fire Brigade) By-Laws, 2007 are unconstitutional. This would have affected millions of county residents and imperilled fire safety in the city. Further that the matter was of great public importance and had the petition succeeded, the power of the Client/Respondent to fire safety to its residents would have been endangered. The decision by the Taxing Master to term the proceedings as mere work-day chores of legal practitioners is misguided as she failed to consider these important factors, which had been highlighted by the submissions. It was further submitted that an advocate’s instructions fees are based on the value of the subject matter and its importance to the parties.
7.It is the Advocate/Applicant’s further contention that the Taxing Master failed to appreciate the weight of responsibility on the advocates and inherently strenuous nature of the matter. The amount taxed off was so inordinately low and did not reflect the legal services rendered. Further, she did not apply her mind to the matter, and disregarded the fact that it was matter of vital interest which affects a large section of the community. She also disregarded principles which were proper for her to consider. Additionally, the Taxing Master misapplied her discretion by failing to appreciate the importance and complexity of the subject matter of the petition as well as the industry put in and time taken on the same. Further, that by failing to exercise her discretion in a reasonable manner through application of settled principles, the Taxing Master, has denied the Advocate/Applicant instruction fees of Kshs. 15,000,000/= as claimed in the Bill of Costs. The Court was urged to consider that the Advocate/Applicant provided valuable services and worked tirelessly to successfully represent the interests of the Client/Respondent. Further that advocates should be fairly, appropriately and justly rewarded for services rendered and skills employed.
8.For the Respondent, it was submitted that the Taxing Master did not err in principle but took into account the complexity of the matter and responsibility by counsel, time spent, skill employed and other attendant documents relied on. As such, the Taxing Master’s decision should be maintained.
9.The remuneration of an advocate of the High Court by his client in constitutional matters and the taxation thereof is stipulated in in Paragraph 1(j) of Schedule 6 of the ARO as follows:iii.…
10.As regards advocate and client costs, Schedule 6 provides that the instruction fees shall be the fees prescribed above, increased by 50%. Thus, the instruction fees in a contested constitutional matter, such as the one in respect of which the bill of costs in question was taxed, is Kshs. 100,000/=, increased by 50%. The instruction fees stipulated, is the minimum fees and a taxing officer has discretion to increase the same, taking into the account the factors listed in Paragraph 1(j) of Schedule 6 of the ARO.
11.In her ruling, the taxing officer indicated that she was guided by the cases of Joreth Limited v Kigano & Associates  eKLR, Premchand Raichand Ltd v Quarry Services of East Africa Ltd (No. 3)  EA 162 and Republic v Minister for Agriculture & 2 others Ex-parte Samuel Muchiri W’Njuguna & 6 others  eKLR. She found that the amount sought by the Advocate/Applicant was excessive. She stated:
12.It is trite law that a taxing officer has the discretion to increase instruction fees. That discretion must however be guided by known principles. This was the holding of Ojwang, J. (as he then was) in the case of Republic v Minister for Agriculture & 2 others Ex-parte Samuel Muchiri W’Njuguna & 6 others  eKLR where the learned Judge stated:
13.It is the Advocate/Applicant’s case that the instruction fee ought to have been increased to Kshs. 15,000,000/=. It was contended that the Applicant/Advocate acted and successfully defended the Client/Respondent in the petition in which the petitioner was seeking a declaration that the City of Nairobi (Fire Brigade) By-Laws, 2007 are unconstitutional. This would have affected millions of county residents and imperilled fire safety in the city. Further that the matter was of great public importance and had the petition succeeded, the power of the Client/Respondent to provide fire safety to its residents would have been endangered.
14.The Bill of Costs in question relates to a public law claim, the value of which is not ascertainable. In such circumstances, the Taxing Master was required to use her discretion to assess the instruction fee she deemed just.
15.In the case of Joreth Limited v Kigano & Associates  eKLR, the Court of Appeal had this to say regarding a subject matter the value of which cannot be ascertained:
16.And in Premchand Raichand Ltd v Quarry Services of East Africa Ltd (No. 3)  EA 162 the Court of Appeal outlined the principles governing the assessment of costs as follows:(a)That costs should not be allowed to rise to a level as to confine access to justice as to the wealthy,(b)that a successful litigant ought to be fairly reimbursed for the cost he has had to incur,(c)that the general level of remuneration of Advocates must be such as to attract recruits to the profession and(d)so far as practicable there should be consistency in the award made and(e)The court will only interfere when the award of the taxing officer is so high or so low as to amount to an injustice to one party.
17.In the exercise of that discretion, the Taxing Master was required to take into account, amongst other matters, the nature and importance of the cause or matter, the interest of the parties, the general conduct of the proceedings, any direction by the trial judge and all other relevant circumstances as guided by the decision in the Joreth Limited case (supra). The Taxing Master was also required to ensure that the costs allowed would not be so high as to limit access to justice as to the wealthy. Further the costs allowed should be such as would fairly reimburse the successful party for costs incurred. Additionally, the Taxing Master must be mindful to make a decision that would attract recruits to the legal profession.
18.In order to convince the Court that the claim for increase of the instruction fee was justified, the Advocate/Applicant was required to demonstrate and cogently break down with specificity each of the elements that the Taxing Master failed to take into account, namely the complexity, nature and importance of the matter the amount or value of the subject matter, the time expended by the advocate. However, all that was stated was that the matter was of great public importance as the petitioner therein sought a declaration that the By-laws in question were unconstitutional, which would have jeopardised fire safety in the city, thereby affecting millions of county residents. Further that the matter was of great public importance and had the petition succeeded, the power of the Client/Respondent to offer fire safety to its residents would have been endangered. With respect, this argument by the Advocate/Applicant is too general, to justify interference with the discretion of the Taxing Master.
19.Our Courts have often been called upon to consider the issue of increase of instruction fees. In the case of First American Bank of Kenya Ltd v Gulab P. Shah & 2 others  eKLR, Ringera, J. (as he then was) had this to say on the subject:
20.From the material on record, I am in agreement with the Taxing Master that there is nothing that the Advocate/Applicant did that was above the workaday chores of legal practitioners. The responsibility entrusted to counsel in the petition was quite ordinary. It called for normal diligence. Indeed, there is nothing complex about defending a matter where as stated, the petitioner was seeking a declaration that the City of Nairobi (Fire Brigade) By-Laws, 2007 are unconstitutional. It has also not been demonstrated that the brief for the Advocate/Applicant in the matter was, in the words of Ojwang, J. (as he then was), so greatly time-consuming, so research-involving, so skill-engaging as to justify an enhanced award of “instruction fees”. (See Samuel Muchiri W’Njuguna case (supra).
21.It is well settled that this Court should not interfere with the exercise of the taxing master on the question of quantum except on an error in principle. More so because the taxing master is more experienced in this area and therefore more apt to the job. In the case of Nyangito & Co. Advocates v Doinyo Lessos Creameries Ltd  eKLR, Odunga, J. (as he then was) had this to say concerning the interference of the exercise of discretion by a taxing officer:
22.And in the case of KANU National Elections Board & 2 others v Salah Yakub Farah  eKLR, Mativo, J (as he then was) stated:The learned Judge went on to state:
23.Taking cue from the above decision, for this Court to interfere with a decision of a taxing master, it must be satisfied that the decision was clearly wrong. Indeed, Courts have taken the position that a taxing master’s discretion will not be interfered unless it is not exercised properly. Discretion that is influenced by some improper motive, or where there is disregard of settled factors or principles that ought to have been considered, will be vitiated. As such, the decision of a taxing master may only be interfered with if the amount allowed is so high or so low as to amount to an injustice to one party or the other. In the case of Samuel Muchiri W’Njuguna (supra), Ojwang, J (as he then was) cited the following words of Spry, V-P. in Premchand Raichand Ltd & Another v. Quarry Services of East Africa Ltd & Another  E.A. 162:
24.Further the Court of Appeal in Joreth Limited case (supra), cautioned against interference with the assessment of costs by the taxing master unless on a matter of principle. The Court had this to say:
25.The foregoing analysis leads me to draw the conclusion that the Taxing Master, considered the aforesaid well settled principles on increase of instruction fees and properly exercised her discretion in allowing the amount that she did. The Advocate/Applicant has not laid sufficient basis upon which the Court could interfere with the decision of the Taxing Master. In the result, this Reference dated 12.4.22 is found to be lacking in merit and the same is hereby dismissed. The Client/Respondent shall have costs.