Monday, August 04, 2008


 By Monica Achode - Advocate

August, 2008


Republic V The Vice Chancellor Jomo Kenyatta University of
Agriculture and Technology [2008] eKLR (www.kenyalaw.org


High Court at Nairobi

J.G. Nyamu (J)

July 25, 2008

The remedy of judicial review is concerned with reviewing not the
merits of a decision in respect of which an application for judicial
review is made, but the decision - making process itself

The High Court on the 25th of July 2008 dismissed an application on
judicial review brought against the Vice Chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta
University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). The applicants, Dr
Cecilia Mwathi and Mr Moses Muchina, had come to High Court seeking
orders to quash the decision by the Vice Chancellor made on the 25th
October, 2006 terminating their services and employment as academic
staff members of the University. They also sought orders compelling
the Vice Chancellor to reinstate and or recognize the applicants as
members of the academic staff of the said University.

The application was based on the grounds that the Vice Chancellor
acted improperly and in abuse of his powers. The applicants further
claimed that the decision was in breach of the rule of law, fairness
and natural justice as well as the rules of the code of conduct and
ethics. It was the applicants' contention that the decision was
oppressive and discriminatory. The applicants claimed that the
respondent had no powers to hire and fire University staff as this
power was vested in the University Council under sections 16 and 20
of the JKUAT Act No 8 of 1994 and the attendant University statutes.
The application was opposed by the Vice Chancellor who also happened
to be a member of the Inter-Public Universities Councils
Consultative Forum (IPUCCF).

Strike Notice

The Applicants had been employed as lecturers by the University.
They also held the positions of the Chairman and Secretary of
University Academic Staff Union (UASU) respectively, of JKUAT
Chapter. The Applicant together with other officials of UASU had
issued the Minister for Labour and Human Resource Development with a
21 days notice to strike. The said Minister tried to intervene and
UASU vowed to go on with the strike. On 18th October, 2006, the
Applicants and other UASU officials of JKUAT Chapter called a meeting
to plan the launch of the strike. Contemporaneously, the Industrial
Court issued an order restraining the imminent strike or any
interruption of services by UASU and its members.

On the said 18th October, 2006, the JKUAT University Council held a
meeting and resolved that the respondent would take disciplinary
action against any UASU member that participated in the impending
strike. The Applicants encouraged their members to go on strike and
on 23rd October, 2006, they participated in the unlawful strike. On
31st January, 2007 the JKUAT Council Academic staff Disciplinary
committee met and ratified the termination of the applicants
employment. It was for this reason that the applicants brought the
application to the courts seeking judicial review over the decision.

It was the applicants' claim that the terms of service for Academic
Staff established a statutory and contractual relationship between
themselves and the University. According to them, the letter of
termination did not quote under which councils meeting the
disciplinary action against them was discussed and passed after
proper deliberations. Their argument was that the procedure: to
appear and be heard by the Council; to call and examine witnesses;
and to appeal to a full Council, was not followed by the Vice

The Vice Chancellor in opposition to the application argued that the
orders sought by the applicants were directed to the wrong party as
neither JKUAT nor its Council was enjoined as parties to the suit. He
stated that it was only the Council that had the mandate to dismiss
the applicants. The Vice Chancellor maintained that the notice of
was properly served and although the applicants had the
right to appeal against their termination from employment they chose
not to do so. The termination was later ratified by the University
after the applicants waived their right to appeal. As such
they were barred from alleging that they had not been given an
opportunity to be heard.

Court Analysis

The Court considered the arguments put forth both by the applicants
and the respondent and felt that the issues before the court were
threefold: whether the respondent acted improperly and in abuse of
his power in terminating the applicants services as lecturers;
whether the decision of the respondent to terminate applicants
services had any basis in law and if it was oppressive and
discriminatory; and whether judicial review remedies were the most
efficacious for the applicants in the circumstances.

It was clear that the applicants had been employed by JKUAT as
lecturers. It was also apparent from the provisions of the said Act
that the University Council was the supreme body in all maters of
governance, control and administration of the University. The
applicants conceded that they were appointed by the University
Council, not the Vice Chancellor, in their respective positions and
that the university Council had powers to remove them from the
office. They failed to discharge the onus of demonstrating that the
respondent had abused his power in terminating them.

Justice Nyamu noted that the applicants admitted that they attended
the Council meeting of 18th October, 2006. It was therefore not true
that they were never given a chance to be heard before their
termination. A public body or a local authority while formulating a
decision in circumstances to which the principles of natural justice
apply did not need to observe the strict procedures of a court of
law. The court found that there had been no abuse of power by the
respondent who actually followed the procedure for removal from
office of academic members of staff.

The Court appreciated the fact that the statutes allowed the
dismissal of academic staff, and that the general principles of the
law of master and servant as applied in employment contracts, applied
to lecturers. It was of the opinion that the remedy of judicial review
was concerned with reviewing not the merits of the decision in respect
of which the application for judicial review was made, but the
decision - making process itself. The case of Republic V Judicial
Service Commission
Ex-Parte Pareno, [2004] Klr 203 At P.204 was cited
in support of that position.

Justice Nyamu was of the opinion that the court's function was to
decide on whether the process leading to termination was proper and
not to adjudicate on the merit of the same since it was not in
dispute that the applicants could be removed from office. From the
foregoing principles the court could not therefore substitute the
termination for anything else for example reinstatement because the
court would be usurping the power clearly vested in the University
Council and or the Vice Chancellor. It was for the above reasons that
the court found the application lacking in merit and dismissed it with
costs to the respondent.

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