The High Court in Kisumu has ordered the University of Nairobi to pay a former student Sh500, 000 in compensation for withholding his certificates claiming he acquired them fraudulently.
Justice David Majanja said the compensation were general damages for violation of his right to fair administrative action.
He pointed out that the petitioner, Alfred Arunga, had to move the court to obtain his documents. The Judge also awarded the student a further Sh50, 000 to cover costs.
“The totality of the evidence before the court is that although the University knew of the allegations against the petitioner, it never informed the petitioner and proceeded to take adverse and arbitrary action against him,” said Justice Majanja.
Mr Arunga completed his four-year Bachelor of Law degree course and graduated on December 2, 2016. After graduation, he applied to be admitted to the Advocates Training Programme at the Kenya School of Law which required him to submit his degree certificate and original transcripts.
While the degree certificate was given to him on January 16, 2017, he was informed that the original transcripts would be ready for collection seven days later.
When he went to collect the transcripts on the appointed day, his original degree certificate was confiscated and he was verbally informed that he would not be given the original transcripts as the university had received some information that he had graduated through deceit and fraud.
He went to court claiming that the university violated his constitutional rights particularly the right to fair administrative action by confiscating his degree certificate and withholding his transcripts.
Mr Arunga sought several reliefs including the release of his official documents and consequential relief including damages, which the institution did.
Professor Henry Mutoro, the deputy vice-chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs, told the court that the University received confidential information from a whistle-blower stating that the petitioner had forged the university’s transcript software, rubber stamp and signature of the dean of the Law school.
“Mr Arunga had made copies of transcripts for his father in the course of studies. Following the allegations, the university, through the dean of the school of Law, wrote to the him a letter dated December 7, 2016 suspending the issuance of the certificate and transcripts to the petitioner until the matter was investigation were concluded,” said Prof Mutoro.
The university also challenged the High Court’s jurisdiction to adjudicate an administrative matter through a constitutional petition without exhausting the normal channels of appeal within the university.
But Justice Majanja said: “The right to fair administrative action is a fundamental right under the Constitution and it is a right that may be enforced by an application made under the Constitution.”
He added that despite receiving the petitioner’s father’s letter describing the son’s predicament, the university did not allude to disciplinary proceedings of any sort or deny the petitioner’s allegations.