Ahmednasir gets supreme cold shoulder

The Supreme Court yesterday made good it’s stand not to accord Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi audience.

On January 18, the court barred Ahmednasir from appearing before it over sustained attacks on judges and the Judiciary.

On Tuesday, the lawyer appeared before the court to represent his client in a Sh2 billion land case but the judges stood by last week’s communication.

It was during the case that was to be heard virtually that the court led by Chief Justice Martha Koome said they will not proceed with the case if Ahmednasir and or any of his agents were part of the defence.

The court then adjourned and six judges recused themselves. Ahmednasir took to his X handle and said he is ready to make peace with the court but gave conditions.

“Now that CJ Martha Koome today read the order of the Court where 6 judges recused themselves from the case I was to argue and further barring me from the court as long as they are members of the Court… I’m ready to MAKE PEACE with the court as follows,” he posted on X.

He said he will go back to the court (Inshallah) if and when Justices Mohamed Ibrahim, Isaac Lenaola, William Ouko and other new members constitute a majority.

He said he was glad the CJ gave his clients time to engage another lawyer and prioritised hearing of their case.

Supreme Court through registrar Letizia Muthoni Wachira had reminded him that he had been warned but never heeded to it.

“Notwithstanding the damage to the reputation of the court, and the judges who have served thereon over the years, both in corporate and individual posture and in an effort to render justice to those you represent, the court has exercised restraint by not deploying punitive tools against you,” the letter read in part.

Ahmednasir has since vowed to appeal the decision by the Supreme Court not to grant him audience before the East African Court of Justice.

The Chairman of the Senior Counsel Bar Fred Ojiambo termed the matter a difficult one.

“It’s a difficult issue, it’s an issue of principle, a whole issue of integrity, not of the court but also of those who appear before it, whether it is right for the court to listen to you or not,” he said.

He revealed that there has been a split on the issue with some of the Senior Counsels feeling social media cannot be used to vilify judges but rather face them in court when an issue arises.

Ojiambo noted that an issue only arises if a client suffers because of the behaviour of the advocate representing him.

“The only aspect that is the client, if he ends up suffering because of the behaviour of the advocate, then that is an issue. It’s also up to us advocates not to act in such a manner that will hurt our client,” he added.

Law Society of Kenya presidential aspirant Kipkoech Ng’etich said the court while exercising its powers should consider the innocent litigants and the innocent advocates in the law firm.

“Supreme Court is populated by very senior judges, they should engage Ahmednasir on the issue, Ahmednasir should also be ready to engage them,” said lawyer Kipkoech.

Lawyer Gordon Ogola said the decision by the Supreme Court not to grant Ahmednasir audience is a breach of fundamental rights that the High Court can address.

“That is complete abuse of power as it was not based on any sound decision,” Ogola said. 

Fair hearing

The ban elicited differing reactions, with some describing the decision as too harsh and against his right to free speech and fair hearing.

Law Society of Kenya President Eric Theuri was among those opposed to the decision.

“I spoke to Ahmednasir. The Supreme Court has irredeemably lost on this one. The Law Society of Kenya will not allow its statutory mandate to be encroached upon by the court and will seek immediate retraction and apology,” Theuri wrote on his X account.

To those who back the decision, the failure by Ahmednasir to present evidence of what he claimed cannot be said to be free speech as he acted knowing that he could not provide proof.

Among those who supported the court are lawyer Donald Kipkorir. According to him, the continued attacks against the top court judges was not free speech.

“Let’s be honest …. Supreme Court has only seven Judges … When you wake up every morning for over ten years & say these Judges are irredeemably corrupt, incompetent, stupid, shallow, illiterate et al, you expect them to send you flowers & chocolates? These Judges have spouses, families & friends.”

There are those who believed that some of the comment were made elsewhere would have led to Ahmednasir disbarment. Some Supreme Courts that have cracked the whip and had lawyers disbarred include India and California.

Sources in the Judiciary told The Standard that the apex court decision was bolstered by India’s Supreme Court and California verdicts to punish errant lawyers for unsubstantiated claims against Judges and the court. 

On the eve of the 2022 presidential election petitions, the Supreme Court had issued directions requiring advocates and litigants to expressing their opinion and merits and demerits or predicting the outcome of live cases in court.

At the heart of the directions were again social media posts during the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) cases.

CJ Koome stated that the commentaries were meant to influence, intimidate and scandalise the court.