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Supreme Court rules Magistrates to continue hearing land cases

Supreme court of Kenya

The Supreme Court has declined to stop magistrates’ courts from hearing land and environment caseamid lawyers battle to have judges only to hear such cases.

The decision by the highest court in the land stems from a long-standing dispute between Law Society of Kenya, Malindi branch, and the Attorney General on whether lower courts should entertain cases gazetted for the High Courts.

A five-judge bench composed of Chief Justice David Maraga, his deputy Philomena Mwilu, Justices Mohamed Ibrahim, Jackton Ojwang’ and Njoki Ndung’u unanimously agreed that the lawyers’ body had not convinced them that it would suffer any loss if the orders by Court of Appeal would not be temporarily set aside.

“Grant of stay of existing orders cannot be a matter of course. It rests upon genuine conditions of urgency, merit and dispatch – which are missing in this instance. Hence there is no valid basis for the grant of stay orders,” the Supreme Court ruled.

According to the Supreme Court, suspending the Court of Appeal orders would mean that more than 40,000 cases that were at the centre of the dispute would be disrupted.

The appellate court had found that Kenyans had a right to be heard before any court or tribunal. It lifted High Court’s orders that had found that magistrates’ courts had no powers to hear cases set for superior courts.

The case stems from a High Court decision that spelled that the Chief Justice could not transfer judges from various divisions of the High Court, Labour and Employment Court, Environment and Lands Court to hear cases across board.

Former CJ Willy Mutunga had gazetted a new law giving magistrates’ courts power to hear land and employment disputes, but the decision was opposed by LSK, which argued that the Act was unconstitutional.