Judiciary wins back land grabbed by former magistrate

The Judiciary has been allowed to repossess a prime piece of land in Kisumu City that had been grabbed by a former magistrate and sold to a private developer.

Justice Boaz Olao ruled that the 2-acre piece of land next to the Kisumu Law Court valued at over Sh500 million was irregularly acquired and transferred to two businessmen by former Kisumu Senior Principal Magistrate Charles Oyoo Kanyangi.

According to the judge, it was unethical that a judicial officer who was entrusted to take care of judiciary land conspired with some officers to hive off part of the court’s land before selling it to the businessmen, Aashish Vallabhdas Jethwa and Lalji Karsan Ramji Rabadia.

“As the magistrate in charge of the Kisumu Law Courts, he solicited for an allocation of part of the judiciary land from the commissioner of lands and written a no objection letter that led to the excision of part of the land which had been marked for court’s expansion,” ruled Olao.

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The suit was filed by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission following complaints that the judiciary land was being used by private developers to construct high-end shopping complex in Kisumu.

According to the commission, the land was reserved for the judiciary by the commissioner of lands in 1951 and in 1975, the government was registered as the proprietor of the parcel.

However in 1994, the magistrate indicated that there was no objection from the judiciary for the land to be excised after which the commissioner of lands allocated it to him and issued him with a lease for 99 years.

The magistrate then sub-divided the land into two portions and sold it Jethwa and Rabadia, who then used the land’s title to obtain a loan from Bank of Baroda.

Justice Olao dismissed the former magistrate’s defence that he had been misled by two officers from the provincial administration to hive off part of the judiciary land.

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“He cannot hide behind the claim that he was tricked into aiding the improper allocation of court land. As a serving judicial officer in charge of Kisumu Law Courts, the most prudent thing would have been to refer the matter to the registrar who was the custodian of judiciary property,” ruled Olao.

He added that the magistrate and the then commissioner of lands Wilson Gachnja abused their powers by allowing public land to be taken by individuals.

According to the judge, public property should not be a conduit for people to enrich themselves and that the EACC had proven beyond doubt that the land should be given back to the judiciary.

He declared the titles that had been issued to the two businessmen as null and void, and told the bank to find other ways of recovering the loan it had granted the traders using the titles as guarantee.

“A person who has no legal right to a property cannot purport to offer it as security to obtain any other advantage from another party. They had no valid title to secure the loan from the bank as it was obtained fraudulently,” ruled Olao.

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He also ordered the businessmen to pay EACC the cost of bringing up the case.

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JudiciaryKisumuprivate developerformer Kisumu Senior Principal MagistrateCharles Oyoo KanyangiEACC