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Martha Koome under fire from Ex-CJ Willy Mutunga over gag order

Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has expressed his disappointment with Chief Justice Martha Koome’s amendment to rules that govern the Supreme Court proceedings.

In her amendment, Justice Koome sought to block lawyers and litigants from making comments on a presidential election petition. According to Koome, a breach of the directive will amount to contempt of court.

However, the move has been heavily criticised by lawyers, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and now Dr Mutunga, who served as the country’s Chief Justice between 2011 and 2016.

“Is this common law doctrine aligned to the Constitution, particularly Articles 1, 10, 20(3)(b)&(c), 159(1), &259 (1)? In my opinion, it disengages the Constitution and consequently, it is unconstitutional. Some work for public interest litigation. Contempt of court, too,” Dr Mutunga said.

Some of the lawyers who feel the amendment was targeting them said that they will move to court to stop the gazetted law from being implemented.

LSK President Eric Theuri has also addressed the issue by giving the Supreme Court an ultimatum of seven days to withdraw the amendment and allow for consultations.

“The amendments further provide that a breach of the provision would amount to contempt of court. We recognize that the courts have the inherent powers to punish for contempt of court but the amendments as currently enacted would create more disharmony and open up the Supreme Court to further scrutiny and possible ridicule,” Theuri  said.

Former LSK President Nelson Havi and Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi, who had earlier been warned from commenting on the court proceedings, have similarly castigated the CJ’s amendment.