Court freezes sentencing of auctioneer Zacharia Baraza over Westlands house demolition

Zacharia Baraza speaking to journalists in Bungoma police station. [File, Standard]

Court of Appeal has suspended a hearing of a contempt application against auctioneer Zacharia Baraza over the demolition of a couple's house in Westlands.

Justices Daniel Musinga, Kathurima M'Inoti and Dr. Imana Laibuta froze the hearing of the application to jail Baraza after invading and destroying the house belonging to Niraj and Avani Shah, but the judge ruled his application lacked merit.

According to the three judges, Barasa had made a case to suspend orders from Environment and Land Court Judge Oscar Angote for sentencing.

"Looking at the applicants' draft memorandum of appeal which, among others, raise the questions whether the ELC has supervisory jurisdiction over subordinate courts; whether in the circumstances of this case the ELC could exercise contempt of court jurisdiction; and whether the 2nd applicant was afforded a fair hearing before he was adjudged in contempt of court, we are persuaded that the intended appeal is arguable. We are constrained at this stage not to say more, lest we embarrass the bench that ultimately hears the appeal," the three judges ruled.

They ordered him to file an appeal for 45 days in order to hasten the hearing of the case.

In the case, he argued that was on the brink of being sentenced to two years imprisonment or to a fine of two million shillings on the basis of a process that is impugned in the intended appeal.

The appeals court heard that the jail term cannot be undone.

Justice Angote dismissed Baraza's argument that the lands court had no powers to jail him as the case was before the magistrate's court.

"His claims that this court has no jurisdiction to sentence him for contempt are misplaced. The court will be abetting injustice to the complainants if it fails to take action against the auctioneer for the injustice meted on the victims," ruled Angote.

The decision means Baraza will be sentenced for up to two years in jail or a fine of Sh1 million for forcefully evicting and demolishing the couple's home in Westlands despite a court order stopping the eviction.

Justice Angote had found Baraza guilty of contempt and summoned him to appear in court for sentencing on Thursday last week.

However, Baraza objected, arguing that the environment and land court had no jurisdiction to handle contempt cases.

In the case, Baraza was accused of using forged or unlawfully obtaining orders from the Chief Magistrates Court Case No. E361 of 2022, and which they evicted the asians the respondent from the property in Nairobi.