Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi risks jail term for contempt of court
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi and two other senior ministry officials have been ordered to attend court in person on February 21, 2023, ahead of a ruling for contempt of court.
High Court Judge Justice Antony Ndung’u gave the directive after establishing that Mr Linturi , Mr Mohammed Bulle and Timothy Ojwang defied a court order requiring them not to relieve the manager and chief executive officer of Agro Chemical and Food Company Limited (ACFC) Ashok Agarwal of their duties.
He warned the three that should they fail to appear in court a warrant of their arrest will be issued.
Justice Ndung’u said the CS and the other two respondents were served with the order prohibiting the removal of ACFC manager and CEO but ignored it.
Although Mr Linturi , Mr Bulle and Mr Ojwang say they were not served with the order dated June 30, 2022 , the judge ruled that they were lying.
In the case Mr Argawal of Mehta International Limited (TML) says he had been appointed as the sole “manager and technical adviser of ACFC.”
Mr Linturi told the court TML contract at ACFC had been renewed since 2008 and the government was remunerating it to the tune of USD 250,000 for managing the government parastatal on matters of fisheries and agricultural matters.
TML says the contract was not renewed.
“The first contemnor (Linturi) directed the board of directors not to renew the management contract, recruiting a managing director internally with concurrence of the Ministry and review the memorandum and articles of association of ACFC,” states Mr Linturi.
TML has been faulted by the contemnors for failing to disclose the decision terminating its contract and “views of the majority of ACFC Board of directors that the MD of the parastatatal must report directly to them.”
Linturi had said his decision to terminate the contract of TML was mooted by the losses incurred over the years by ACDC at the expense of two other shareholders namely Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) and Kenya Development Corporation (KDC).
The three contemnor agitated that TML did not warrant to get the orders to have them thrown into jail accusing it of getting the orders to remain as the manager of ACFC through non-disclosure of material evidence.
Ojwang defended himself that he should not be jailed since he is an employee of the Agriculture ministry seconded to ACFC by the CS and therefore “cannot be held in contempt.”
But Justice Ndung’u said the three had been served personally with the court order stopping them from kicking out TML and Mr Argawal from ACFC.
The judge said a state counsel Ms Chimau, from the Attorney General’s office appeared for the three contemnors and sought to be served with the court order.
“The contemnors argument that they were not given a chance to defend themselves is false as several efforts were made as can be seen from the events and court records,”ruled Justice Ndung’u when directed the three to appear before him for punishment.
In his ruling the judge said, “any lapsein enforcement of court orders is a sure invite to total breakdown of the law and order and the rule of law as we know it.”
He said the inevitable result of failing to obey court orders and the law would be anarchy and an erosion of the social fabric.
“Any court that fails to enforce its orders has no business conducting any other trial as, of what use would such trial be if the outcome is pyrrhic,” said Justice Ndung’u.
The judge said TML has proven that Mr Linturi , Mr Bulle and Mr Ojwang had been served with the court order and proceeded to breach it.
In his judgement the judge ruled the three (Linturi,Bulle and Ojwang) are incontempt of the orders of the court issued on June 30, 2022.
“That l order they appear before this court on February 21, 2023 to confirm purging of the contempt in default they are to be sentenced in accordance with the law,” ordered Justice Ndung’u.
The judge further ordered that should they fail to appear in court a warrant of arrest shall be issued.
The judge awarded costs of the suit to TML.