No reprieve as Supreme Court refuses to suspend Ruto taxes

President William Ruto. [File, Standard]

Kenyans will continue paying higher taxes imposed by the Finance Act after the Supreme Court declined to stop its implementation.

A seven-judge bench of the apex court dismissed an appeal by Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah seeking to reinstate the orders that froze the Finance Act on the basis that parties in the dispute had filed their submissions outside the given timeline.

"It goes without saying that compliance with court orders goes to the root of the rule of law as well as the dignity of any court. We find that the parties failed to comply with the court's directions and strike out all the submissions," ruled the court.

Chief Justice Martha Koome's led bench also said they lacked jurisdiction to hear and determine whether to suspend implementation of the Finance Act since the dispute was still active before both the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

According to the judges, they were not convinced that the decision of the Court Appeal that lifted the orders issued by the High Court suspending the Act would occasion any losses to warrant their intervention.

"Besides, the appeal before the Court of Appeal is scheduled to be disposed of within 60 days while the hearing of the petition before the High Court is scheduled for next week. In the circumstances, we find that the issues in dispute would be properly ventilated before the other courts," they ruled.

On the issue of late filings of documents, the CJ alongside Judges Philomena Mwilu, Mohammed Ibrahim, Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndung'u, Isaac Lenaola, and William Ouko stated that the parties were to blame for non-compliance with the court directions and practice rules.

The judges ruled that they have repeatedly underscored the importance of compliance with its orders, rules, and practice directions and would not bend the rules to entertain breaches of their directions.

The apex court had directed Omtatah, the Attorney General, and the Ministry of Finance and Treasury to file their submissions by August 16 but none complied as the documents were filed on August 25.

"We find it irregular for parties to fail to adhere to the court's direction and order that all their submissions which were filed out of time be struck out," ruled the judges.

High Court Judge Mugure Thande had on June 10 suspended implementation of the Finance Act after ruling that the prejudice that would be occasioned to the public by being subjected to a law which may be determined as unconstitutional outweighed the prejudice to the government.

She also certified the petition as one which raised substantial questions of law and remitted it to the CJ to compel a bench of three Judges of the High Court to determine it.

However, after Treasury CS Njuguna Ndung'u appealed the decision, Court of Appeal Judges Mohamed Warsame, Kathurima M'Inoti, and Hellen Omondi lifted the orders and allowed the implementation of the Finance Act. The Appellate Judges ruled that Kenyans would not suffer any prejudice if the government was allowed to collect the high taxes.

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