1.By a plaint dated 3rd June, 2013 and amended on 14th May, 2019 and further amended on 27th September 2021, Soti Masai (now deceased and substituted with Naomi Jemeli Kemboi) filed this suit seeking judgment against the defendants, jointly and severally for:-
2.The suit is premised on the grounds that on or about 15th March 2010, the defendants, without any colour of right, entered into and occupied land parcels number 690, 691, 700, 701 and 702 belonging to the plaintiff. The defendants are also said to have unlawfully entered into and occupied parcels number Mosop/Kapchorua 682, 683, 684, 685, 686 and 687 belonging to the plaintiff and reserved for occupation by the children of Hogla Masai (deceased).
3.The defendants filed a defence and counterclaim denying the allegations levelled against them and contending that the plaintiff’s registration of parcels number Mosop/Kapchorua 680, 688, 700, 682 and 670 is subject to a trust for them and other beneficiaries of the estate of Masai Kapcali (deceased).
4.Terming their occupation of the suit properties lawful, the defendants have pleaded that they had been in use and occupation of the suit properties for over 24 years as members of the plaintiff’s family.
5.It is the defendants’ case that the plaintiff was fraudulently registered as the proprietor of the suit properties, which emanated from the estate of Masai Kapcali (deceased). Particulars of fraud urged against the plaintiff are listed under paragraph 12 of the amended statement of defence and counterclaim thus:-
6.It is further contended that the plaintiff acted irregurarly, illegally and in breach of the trust vested in her. The particulars of irregularity/illegality and breach of trust urged against the plaintiff are listed in paragraph 12 of the amended defence and counter-claim thus:-
7.By way of counterclaim, the defendants seek judgment against the plaintiff for:-
8.The defendants also seek the following reliefs:-
9.The plaintiff filed a reply to defence and defence to counterclaim denying the defendants’ contention that the suit properties are subject to a trust in their favour and that they were fraudulently registered in the name of the plaintiff. The plaintiff further contended that there was no property for inheritance as the original property Mosop/Kapchorwa/541 was registered in her name.
10.In support of her case, the plaintiff availed four witnesses all of whom adduced evidence in support of the plaintiff’s pleaded case. The 1st defendant gave evidence in support of the defendants’ defence and counterclaim.
11.From the testimonies of the plaintiff’s witnesses and the 1st defendant, the following facts of the case are either common ground or uncontroverted and/or undisputed:-
12.At close of hearing parties filed submissions which I have read and considered.
13.In her submissions filed on 16th June 2023, the plaintiff has given an overview of the case urged by the parties and the evidence given in support thereof and identified the following as the issues for the court’s determination:-
14.On Whether the plaintiff is entitled to the injunctive reliefs sought, based on the evidence produced showing that the plaintiff is the registered proprietor of the suit properties, it is submitted that the plaintiff has satisfied the legal requirements for grant of the injunctive reliefs sought.
15.With regard to the 2nd issue, whether the defendants have shown that the plaintiff held the suit parcels in trust for them, reference is made to several cases where the law undergirding the issue of trust is espoused and submitted that the defendants hardly led any evidence capable of proving that registration of parcels number Mosop/Kapchorua 688, 700 and 701 in favour of the plaintiff is subject to any trust in their favour. The plaintiff is said to have demonstrated that it was the family’s intention that the suit properties be distributed in the manner they were distributed. It is conceded that parcels number 690, 691, 692, 693, 694, 695, 702 and 703 are subject of a trust in favour of the 1st defendant by virtue of having been the wife of the late Ben Kibet Masai.
16.Maintaining that the suit properties were distributed as per the wishes of the late Masai Kapcali, the plaintiff urges this court to exercise great caution and restraint before interferring with the late Masai Kapcali’s wishes.
17.On whether the defendants have demonstrated that the plaintiff engaged in fraud, it is submitted that the defendants did not prove to the required standard of proof that the plaintiff engaged in the pleaded acts of fraud. To the contrary, the plaintiff is said to have proved that she is the bona fide registered proprietor of the suit parcels and that the defendants are way off from showing any legal or beneficial interest in the suit properties.
18.As to whether the defendants have proved that they are entitled to orders of mandatory injunction, it is submitted that owing to their conduct, the defendants are not entitled to any equitable reliefs, since a person seeking equitable reliefs must do so with clean hands. The defendants are said to have approached the court with unclean hands as they took the law in their own hands by trespassing into the suit properties thereby mocking judicial proceedings. The defendants are also said to have disobeyed injunctive orders issued against them and meted violence on the plaintiff, the late Soti Masai.
19.In their submissions filed on 30th June 2023, the defendants have given an overview of the cases urged by the parties to the suit and identified the following as the issues for the court’s determination:-
20.On whether the original suit property was held in trust, reference is made to the case of Isack M’Inanga Kiebia vs. Isaaya Theuri M’Lintari & Isack Ntongai Mlintari SCOK Petition 10 of 2015, Section 35 of the Law of Succesion Act, Cap 160 Laws of Kenya, and to the evidence adduced in this case showing that the original parcel of land was registered in the name of the family patriarch, the late Masai Kapcali, before it was registered in the name of the original plaintiff, Soti Masai, and submitted that registration of the original plaintiff was subject to a trust in favour of the beneficiaries of the estate of Masai Kapcali.
21.On whether subdivision of the original parcel of land, Mosop/Kapchorua/541 was done legally, reference is made to the evidence adduced in the case to the effect that the property was transferred to the original plaintiff at a time when the registered owner was deceased without succession proceedings for the estate of the deceased comprised in Mosop/Kapchorua/541 and submitted that subdivision of the original parcel of land and the subsequent transfer of the subdivisions to the original plaintiff, Soti Masai, was illegal and incapable of conferring any legal rights on the plaintiff. The contention by the plaintiff that the original parcel of land was transmitted to the original plaintiff during the lifetime of Masai Kapcali is said to be unsupported by the totality of the evidence adduced in the case.
22.Based on the provisions of Section 55 and 82 of the Law of Succession Act, Cap 160 Laws of Kenya and the decision in the case of In the Matter of the Estate of Paul M’maria (Deceased) (2017) eKLR, it is asserted that the transfer and the subsequent subdivision of the original parcel of land and the transfer of the subdivisions therefrom to the original plaintiff was illegal and incapable of conferring any rights on the original plaintiff and/or extinguishing the trust to which it was subject to.
23.On whether the titles of the suit properties should be cancelled and reverted to the original title, reference is made to the decision in the case of Mcfoy vs. United Africa Co. Ltd (1991) ALL ER 1169 where it was inter alia held that if an act is void, then it is a nullity in law; that avoid act is not only bad, but incurably bad and on account of the illegality in the transfer of the original parcel of land to the original plaintiff it is submitted that the subsequent subdivisions and titles issued in respect thereof ought to be cancelled. This court is said to be clothed with the power to cancel titles obtained by fraud or mistake. In that regard reference is made to Section 80 of the Land Registration Act, 2012 and the case of Republic vs. Kisumu District Lands Officer & another (2010) eKLR.
24.As to whether the plaintiff has locus standi to maintain the suit based on the fact that the suit properties relate to the estate of Masai Kapcali for which the plaintiff is not the administratix and/or legal representative, it is submitted that the plaintiff has no locus standi to maintain the instant suit. Concerning the import of having locus standi, reference is made to the cases of Alfred Njau vs. City Council of Nairobi (1983)KLR and the case of Julian Adoyo Ongunga vs. Francis Kiberenge Abano Migori Civil Appeal No.119 of 2015.
25.As to whether this court has jurisdiction to entertain this matter, it is submitted that the issue before this court is purely a succession matter for which this court lacks jurisdiction to determine.
Analysis and determination
26.From the pleadings filed in this case, the evidence adduced and the submissions filed, the issues for the court’s determination are:-
27.On whether the applicable law and procedures were complied with in registration of the plaintiff, Soti Masai, as the proprietor of the parcel of land known as Mosop/Kapchorua/541, the evidence adduced in this suit shows that the original parcel of land, Mosop/Kapchorua/541 belonged to Masai Kapcali, deceased, when it was purportedly transferred/trans-mitted to the plaintiff, Soti Masai. Admittedly, no succession proceeding were taken up or conducted before the property was transferred to the plaintiff yet the property constituted part of the estate of a deceased person when it was purportedly transferred to the plaintiff. Transfer of the property to the plaintiff, without any succession proceedings being undertaken in respect thereof clearly violated the provisions of Section 45 as read with Section 82 of the Law of Succession Act, Cap 80 Laws of Kenya.
28.In the case of Re Estate of Paul M’ Maria (Deceased) (2017)e KLR it was held:-
29.Similar sentiments were expressed in the case of Re Estate of John Gakunga Njoroge, (Deceased) (2015) eKLR where it was held:-
30.In applying the above cited authorities to the circumstances of this case, where there is evidence that the plaintiff dealt with the estate of Masai Kapcali without compliance with the applicable law and procedures, I do find that the purported dealings with the suit property by the plaintiff were not only unlawful but also illegal hence incapable of forming the basis of her claim against the defendants.
31.As to whether the plaintiff acquired a good title to parcel number Mosop/Kapchorua/541 which she could pass to herself or any other person, following the determination that her dealing with the parcel of land known as Mosop/Kapchorua/541 was unlawful and illegal, I do find the purported transfer of the parcel of land known as Mosop/Kapchorua/541 to the plaintiff and the subsequent subdivision and transfer of the subdivisions therefrom to have been a nullity in law hence incapable of forming the basis of her claim against the defendants.
32.As to whether the defendants have any beneficial interest to the suit properties, there being evidence that the suit properties are subdivisions of Mosop/Kapchorua/541 which belonged to the plaintiff’s husband, and further, there being evidence that the plaintiff and the defendants are members of the family of Masai Kapcali, deceased, I do find as a fact that the suit property is family land hence subject of a customary trust in favour of the plaintiff and the defendants. In view of the foregoing, I return a positive verdict into the question as to whether the defendants have beneficial interest to the suit properties. It is the considered view of this court that the extent of that beneficial interest can only be determined by a succession court upon administration of the estate of Masai Kapcali deceased.
33.On what orders the court should make; having determined that the parcel of land was unlawfully/illegally transferred to the plaintiff, I declare that registration a nullity and direct the Land Registrar of the responsible land registry to cancel all transanctions concerning the parcel of land known as Mosop/Kapchorua/541 and to revert the property to the status it was before it was unlawfully registered in the name of Masai Soti, deceased.
34.All persons with interest in the suit property should pursue their interest when the estate of the deceased is administered. In the meantime, the status quo, which obtained before the current suit was filed shall be maintained.
35.For avoidance of doubt, neither the plaintiff nor the defendant should lay a claim to the estate of the Masai Kapcali comprised in Mosop/Kapchorua/541 until and unless the same is administered in accordance with the applicable law and procedures. Parties are at liberty to continue using and occupying the portions they were using and occupying before the suit. administration of the estate of Masai Kapcali should be done taking into account the interest of all persons with interest therein, to give them a fair chance to defend their interest.
36.The upshot of the foregoing is that the plaintiff’s suit is dismissed. The defendants suit only succeeds to the extent contemplated in this judgment.
37.This being a family dispute, parties shall bear their costs of the suit.