The University of Nairobi's main campus in Nairobi. [File, Standard]

A man who sued the University of Nairobi (UoN) for confiscating his degree certificate on claims he hacked the institution's computer system to print himself fake transcripts has been denied Sh500, 000 that had been awarded to him by the High Court.

The Court of Appeal's decision to deny Inganga Alfred Arunga the award followed an application by the UoN challenging the High Court's judgement.

The Court of Appeal termed the award to Arunga, who was UoN's Kisumu campus student, as excessive, generic and would "set a dangerous precedent opening a door for inept students to claim violations for rights for their failure to fulfil the requirements of attaining a degree legitimately."

Arunga had been awarded the sum as general damages for the delay which frustrated his academic journey to join the Kenya School of Law (KSL). A whistleblower stated Arunga faked his way to obtaining the lucrative degree.

Court of Appeal judges in Kisumu bought the argument by the university reasoning that the confiscation was not injurious enough to deserve the High Court award.

"I do not think that the circumstances, in this case, warranted the award of Sh500, 000 as general damages for Arunga's violation of the right to fair administrative action," said Justice Joel Ngugi in the judgment that was endorsed by his peers, Francis Tuiyott and Jamila Mohammed.

University reasoning

It added: "Not every constitutional violation warrants monetary compensation. Given the expedition with which the whole matter was handled, and given that Arunga did not demonstrate the university's internal grievance (solving) mechanisms were inadequate."

They said Arunga, who did not join the law school as desired, also failed to sufficiently demonstrate he suffered emotional distress or other consequences to warrant the award.

The UoN student was provoked to sue the institution after he went to collect the transcripts on January 23, 2017, after graduating with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree in December 2016 only to find what he termed as "an unpleasant surprise" awaiting him.

"While there, my degree certificate (which was a requirement to get the transcripts) was confiscated by an official of the university who informed me he had a "tip" from an anonymous source that I graduated through deceit and fraud," he said.

Unnotified confiscation

He said the unnotified confiscation infringed on his rights as the university had issued him with provisional transcripts for 1st to 4th year of study and even the degree certificate on January 16, 2017, without raising the cheating claims.

He argued, in his case at the High Court in Kisumu, that the infringement cut in on his study timelines as the university failed to furnish him with his academic papers when the deadline for registration and submitting of testimonials to the KSL was on January 27, 2017, whereas the date of reporting was scheduled on February 1, 2017.

Dr Henry Mutoro, the university's Vice-Chancellor (Academic), countered him saying an anonymous whistleblower, through an email to the university's VC dated December 5, 2016, informed them that Arunga hacked the institution's computer system and printed transcripts.

"He said the student hacked the university's transcript software, faked its rubber stamp and signature of the Dean of the School of Law which he used to generate his transcripts fraudulently," said Mutoro.