A fresh row is brewing between members of Parliament and the Judiciary after MPs on Thursday this week said that they will continue with debates on the Affordable Housing Bill 2023 despite a court order barring them from doing so.
National Assembly leader of majority Kimani Ichung’wa, in a press statement, said that the House will proceed with the ongoing public participation on the Bill, despite reports that the process had been stopped by the court.
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The Kikuyu MP said that orders issued in December last year by the High Court sitting in Kisumu, do not apply on the current process.
The MP insisted that the orders were on the previously instituted public participation exercise, adding that media reports insinuating that the House was in breach of orders from the court were inaccurate.
“The conservatory orders issued apply in respect of the conduct of the public participation in the manner indicated in the public participation advert issued on December 9, 2023 on submission of memoranda,” Ichung’wa said.
The High Court in Kisumu, had in December last year barred Parliament from conducting public participation on the Affordable Housing Bill, 2023, following a petition filed in court challenging the manner in which the House was conducting the process.
Parliament had introduced the Bill, after a three-judge bench in November last year ruled the Housing Levy Fund unconstitutional following a failure by MPs to conduct public hearing on the matter among other issues.
But in his statement, Ichung’wa argued that the orders issued by the High Court did not prohibit Parliament from conducting any other form of public participation across the various parts of Kenya on the Bill, or the ordinary stakeholder engagements with key sectors.
“In this regard, the two committees of the National Assembly intend to conduct public hearings across the country on the Bill in accordance with the constitutional obligation espoused in Article 118 of the Constitution and the fact is that this has not been stopped by the particular court order, which we have also challenged in court,” Ichung’wa said.
He further added that it is also noteworthy that the basis of the case giving rise to the court order by the High Court in Kisumu was that Parliament should conduct adequate and affective public participation including through creation of awareness on the Bill and holding public meetings.
“Ironically, the orders of the High Court in Kisumu stand in the way of Parliament and the Executive from complying with the three-bench judgement of the High Court on the Affordable Housing Levy as provided for in the Finance Act, 2023 which we have also challenged at the Court of Appeal.
“The High Court held that the Affordable Housing framework requires to be hinged on a comprehensive legal framework and hence the introduction of the Affordable Housing Bill, 2023 to comply with the judgement of the distinguished three judges of the High Court issued in November last year,” the Kikuyu MP said.
Ichung’wa spoke even as magistrates and judges from across East Africa condemned the recent attacks on the Judiciary by President William Ruto.
The East African Magistrates and Judges Association said that the attacks by President Ruto raised serious questions about the interference with the independence of the Judiciary.
The Association emphasized the crucial role of an independent Judiciary in upholding the rule of law and promoting a democratic state.
“EAMJA wishes to remind the Kenyan government of its commitment to various regional, continental and international instruments that underscore the importance of preserving the independence of the Judiciary.
“EAMJA underscores the significance of addressing any grievances against judicial officers or their decisions within the acceptable framework that enhances the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary,” EAMJA President Justice Keitirima John Eudes said in a statement.