Three judges are back to square one in a case on prime Del Monte Ltd land, four years after it is started. In a ruling that left the parties infuriated, Justices Kanyi Kimondo, Chacha Mwita and Wilfrida Okwany today said they have no jurisdiction to determine the lease dispute on 60,000 acres of land in Murang’a County.
What baffled the parties was the judges’ decision to hear the matter since September 2015 only to come up with an anti-climax decision that would have been dealt with in the preliminary stages before the dispute went to full hearing.
“We feel let down by the decision. We expected a detailed judgement which could have gone either way and set precedence in determining questions of land leases across the country.
But that is what the judges have decided and we will abide by it,” said one of the lawyers.
In normal court proceedings, the issue of jurisdiction is raised as a preliminary objection and dispensed with in the first instance, which means the judges would have downed their tools as soon as it was raised instead of waiting for the full hearing.
“In the end, we find and hold that the dispute was about renewal of land lease, which is intrinsically connected to land use. The constitutional court lacks jurisdiction to determine it as the dispute falls squarely within the purview of the Environment and Land Court,” ruled the judges.
It was expected that the three judges would deliver a landmark decision and set the trend in solving the burning question of renewing land leases that are about to expire, which has led to many disputes between multi-national companies and various county governments.
According to the lawyers, the energy, research and volumes of documents they filed since the case was filed in 2015 turned to be merely additional literature in the judiciary shelves, being of no use after the judges said they have no jurisdiction to hear the matter.
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