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Bills still pending as extended August 27 deadline lapses

By Lilian Aluanga | August 27th 2016
Several pieces of legislation are still pending before Parliament, even as the constitutional deadline by which they ought to have been passed, lapses.PHOTO: COURTESY

Several pieces of legislation are still pending before Parliament, even as the constitutional deadline by which they ought to have been passed, lapses.

The new Constitution, promulgated in August 2010, came with specific timelines, ranging from one to five years, within which certain laws were to be passed.

According to the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, legislation in respect of culture, family, community land, registration of land use and property, agreements in relation to natural resources, and promotion of representation of marginalised groups had a timeline of five years.

 This ought to have lapsed in 2015, but Parliament extended the time by a year to pass the resultant Bills, and now has no further room for extensions, according to the Constitution. Among the contentious Bills that were to have been passed by August 27 are those on land and representation in both Houses in keeping with the two-thirds gender principle.In an article in the Standard earlier this month, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale said Parliament had “spared no effort in ensuring Bills crucial to the implementation of the Constitution were passed on time.”

Duale said he had moved over 60 Bills that have since become law, adding that MPs had often extended sittings and sometimes done away with lengthy procedures to ensure the set deadlines were met in passing the laws.

Parliament has often been blamed for delays in passage of the crucial laws, but has in turn blamed the AG’s office, the now-defunct Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution and the Executive for failing to present some of the Bills in time.

In Parliament’s defence, Duale said extension of timelines was sometimes necessitated by the nature of Bills and the fact that they had far-reaching implications, thus calling for substantive debate and requisite numbers to pass them.

Bills still pending before the House include the Historical Land Injustices Bill, Minimum and Maximum Land Holding Acreage Bill, Physical Planning Bill, Land Use Bill and Evictions Bill. Others are the Bill on Representation of Marginalised Groups, the Energy Bill, the Small Claims Court and Contempt of Court Bill and the Organisation and Administration of Appeal Bill.

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Hopes of the much contested Gender Bill passing in the Senate were dashed on Thursday, with the proposed legislation failing to get requisite numbers. This followed two failed attempts by the National Assembly to pass a similar Bill that would have ensured not more than two-thirds of either gender occupied positions in both Houses.

Although the Constitution provides for Parliament’s dissolution should it fail to pass legislation in the stipulated time, there is a feeling that this is unlikely to happen. For starters, Parliament has been finding ways of insulating itself from such action. There is also concern that the absence of a Chief Justice could complicate matters.

“Anyone can go to court to challenge the constitutionality of Parliament for failing to pass the Bills. But the Constitution is clear that it is the CJ who advises the President on the matter,” lawyer Waikwa Wanyoike said.

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