A lawyer representing tea farmers has petitioned acting Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu over what he alleged as cartels using courts to issue unwarranted orders to frustrate tea reforms.
Through a letter in our possession, lawyer Patrick Ngunjiri of Patricks Law Associates who is acting on behalf of 600, 000 small scale farmers said that currently there are 6 constitutional petitions filed by habitual petitioners whose intention is always to frustrate small scale farmers.
“ We have taken the liberty to outline the background of tea reforms as to lay basis in informing you that since august 2020, the reforms have been blocked by several constitutional petitions through Ex-parte orders that continuously block the opposed tea reforms by Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA),” part of the reads.
Some of the habitual petitioners mentioned are KTDA holdings, KTDA management service Limited, East Africa Tea Growers Association (EATTA), Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA) and directors of all 54 tea companies in the country.
Yesterday, Judiciary Chief Registrar Anne Amadi admitted that corruption is rife in the judicial arm of government revealing that 174 judicial staff have been sacked since 2018 over misconduct exposing the rot pitting the institution.
According to her, records from the Judiciary’s human resource department and the Judicial Service Commission indicate that 30 were dismissed three years ago, 72 two years ago and 72 last year.
She said the Judiciary is concerned about the high number of staff engaging in malpractices resulting to such dismissals.
Speaking in Kisumu during the start of the 8th heads of stations forum, Amadi further noted that during the same period, 11 judicial officers were dismissed.
Amadi lamented that the sacked staff have left a big gap in the Judiciary leading to strained service delivery.
Acting Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu urged heads of stations to ensure that ethics and discipline is maintained within the Judiciary.
Some of the orders which the petitioner said have been issued to frustrate small scale farmers is an order which was made in Mombasa High Court petition 87 of 2020 East African Tea Trade Association Vs The Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperative and KTDA was an interested party.
“The court issued Ex-parte conservatory orders stopping the implementation of the entire crops tea regulations. These drastic orders were issued at a very interlocutory stage of the petition,” said Ngunjiri.
Ngunjiri also highlighted Petition no.E254 which was the case between KTDA and another Director of Criminal Investigation and 2 others and Gacharage Tea Factory Company and Irungu Nyakera as the 1st and2nd respondent respectively.
In this petition, Ngunjiri said that the hearing of the ex-parte application was granted in the first instance thus denying the respondents the constitutionally protected right to a fair trial that includes adequate time to prepare a response.
The letter has also highlighted another case which Ngunjiri said the judge only read the supporting affidavit.
“My lady, a closer assessment of the cases mentioned above, the inescapable the conclusion is that, in granting interlocutory orders, the pattern is predictable and pre-determined,” said Ngunjiri.
He adds, “ The Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Agriculture and small scale framers have never been given adequate time to present their position on the respective interlocutory orders before the orders are granted, therefore denying them the constitutionally protected right of a fair trial”.
Last year, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya lashed out at the Keya Tea Development Agency for using the court to frustrate him as he does his job.
Munya accused KTDA of using the court system to prevent the government from doing anything.
In July last year, the High Court issued orders stopping the implementation of the gazetted tea reforms, after KTDA challenged the process.
Munya said many farmers want to be sure that they are able to pay school fees for their children and take care of the basics.
“Now when you make decisions to invest their money in all sorts of things and then those subsidiaries don’t make any money, you start saying the earnings have been going down. Yet it is you who has been engaging in faulty schemes,” he said.
He said this is what KTDA has been doing in the name of the smallholder tea farmer, but that their time is up.
“Whether they go to court and pay expensive lawyers, we are telling them, the time has come for the tea farmers in Kenya to benefit from their tea. And nothing is going to stop us. The only people who can stop us from doing this are the farmers,” he said.
But on their part, KTDA has always said that it is the right of every citizen aggrieved to seek redress in the courts of law.