Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho risks being jailed for 60 days unless he pays a Sh250,000 fine after he was charged with contempt of court.
The county boss was accused of disobeying a court order restraining the devolved unit from trespassing on a parcel of land belonging to businessman Ashok Doshi and his wife Pratibha.
Justice Sila Munyao of the Environment and Land Court in Mombasa said it was important that a person holding an office like that of the governor leads in observing the rule of law.
“Much is expected from a holder of such an office, especially when it comes to adherence to orders of the court, his (Joho’s) apparent lack of remorse is deeply disturbing to this court,” said Justice Munyao.
The court also fined Changamwe MCA Bernard Ogutu Sh20,000 for contempt of court. Should Mr Ogutu fail to pay the fine, he will serve a 14-day jail term. “Lets us ask ourselves if we want to live in a country that follows the rule of law or a country that applies the law of the jungle. There is no heroism in violating a court order,” said Justice Munyao.
He added: “In fact, anybody breaking an order of the court should be deeply ashamed.”
Justice Munyao further ruled that Mr Doshi and his wife are entitled to restitution, as the acts of violation led to damage of property.
“In addition, Mr Joho will personally pay any damage or loss that the plaintiffs may have incurred as a result of destruction of the property,” he said.
Justice Munyao ordered the Mombasa County police commander to execute arrest warrants against Mr Joho and Mr Ogutu and commit them to Shimo la Tewa Prison unless they demonstrate that they have paid the fines.
Mr Doshi had filed an application seeking to have Mr Joho and the MCA charged with contempt of court after they disobeyed a court order restraining Mombasa County government from trespassing on his land.
Through lawyer Willis Oluga, the businessman and his wife argued that on May 10, 2019, county officials led by Mr Joho and some leaders from Mombasa, hired goons who invaded their land and demolished a gate in breach of a court order.
The plaintiffs further argued that the leaders held a public rally where they accused Mr Doshi of being a land grabber.
“The governor of Mombasa stated at the public rally held on the land that as the ‘President’ of Mombasa County, he had revoked the plaintiffs title to the land,” reads the application.
He argued that Mr Joho and Mr Ogutu disobeyed the court order by invading the land.
Mr Oluga told Justice Munyao that there was no replying affidavit from Mr Joho denying allegations against him on disobedience of the court order.
Through lawyer Murtaza Tajbhai, Mr Joho told the court that he was neither served with the contempt application nor a court order.
“It is clear from the video that the governor and the second defendant (Mr Ogutu) were outside the parcel of land,” said Mr Tajbhai.
He argued that no official from the county government was present during the demolition.
The plaintiffs argued that as public officers, the governor and Mr Ogutu should be on the forefront in upholding the rule of law.
“Law and order must be observed and court orders obeyed by all irrespective of status and position held,” the application stated.
The plaintiffs are also seeking a permanent injunction to restrain Mombasa County and Mr Ogutu or any person acting on their behalf from demolishing the perimeter wall or any other structures on the land.
The businessman and his wife argue that other than trespassing on the land and causing serious damage, the county government threatened to evict them and revert ownership of the land to Changamwe Secondary School.
They also argue that allegations of land grabbing are baseless because the title and ownership of the previous owner, from whom they purchased it, had been affirmed by various courts.