Five principal secretaries have been sentenced to serve six months in civil jail for disobeying court orders.
Justice John Mativo of the Nyeri High Court on Friday found the principal secretaries of the ministry of Transport and the ministry of Land guilty of contempt of court charges filed against them for disobeying orders issued on June 3, 2013.
The High Court on June 3, 2013 had ordered them to pay Mr Wilson Kamau Maina Sh349,957 in compensation for injuries to his mother, Ms Bilhar Wangui Maina.
The orders resulted from a civil case in a magistrate’s court that Ms Maina had filed seeking compensation after she was injured in an accident that involved a government vehicle in 1992.
Ms Maina had sued the then ministry of Public Works and Housing as the owner of the vehicle and was found liable.
Ms Maina was the original plaintiff in the case, but she died before the claim was settled.
She had sought Sh110,000 in compensation but upon her death, her son succeeded her as the plaintiff and the court awarded him the money on behalf of his deceased mother.
After the 2013 General Election, the ministries of Public Works and Housing were absorbed into two mega ministries — the ministry of Transport, Infrastructure and the ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development.
Mr Maina moved to court on March 30, 2015 and asked the judge to commit to civil jail the principal secretaries for not paying him.
Through lawyer Jeremiah Mbuthia, he served the Attorney-General and the permanent secretaries but no objections or replying affidavit were filed.
Justice Mativo said contempt proceedings are criminal in nature and since liberty is at stake the standard of proof is higher than in civil cases.
“The power to commit for contempt is one to be exercised with great care and an order committing a person to prison for contempt is to be adopted only as a last resort.
"In the present case, the alleged disobedience is not contested.
"I am satisfied that the applicant has demonstrated that there are sufficient grounds to warrant this court to allow the application,” ruled Justice Mativo.
The judge said the civil jail sentence may be dispensed with upon prompt payment to the applicant of the full amount awarded by the court.
The principal secretaries in these ministries are Mr John Mosonik (Infrastructure); Mr Wilson Nyakera Irungu (Transport); Ms Mariamu El Maawy (Lands); Ms Aidah Munano (Housing and Urban Development); Dr Paul Maringa Mwangi (Public Works).