National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi on Tuesday evening obeyed a court order stopping the petition against Auditor-General Edward Ouko but announced that the House had appealed and criticised the judges who issued them.
The decision was met with applause by Opposition MPs, who have been fighting for Mr Ouko in the House, and will certainly come as a relief for the auditor-general in the fight for his job.
Mr Muturi looked set to ask the finance committee to defy the orders by Justices Chacha Mwita and George Odunga and dwelt at length on the principle of separation of powers.
He also quoted the decision by his predecessor, Kenneth Marende, through which the last Parliament defied the order to stop the formation of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission because of a case filed by head of the Electoral Commission of Kenya Samuel Kivuitu.
DEFIED COURT ORDER
In the end, though, he announced that the orders would be obeyed but the fight would be taken to the Judiciary in appeals filed at the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
“In my view, that is the appropriate route. If he had defied the court order as was widely expected, it would have set a very dangerous precedent. As things stand in this country, the Judiciary has remained the last line of defence against a rogue Executive and an equally rogue Parliament,” said Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi.
Mr George Kegoro, the executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, also praised the decision.
An appeal was also the route proposed by Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno, who has been religiously attending meetings of the finance committee in the scrutiny of the petition and taken a pro-Ouko stand.
Mr Muturi’s ruling took the better part of an hour and his every pronouncement of the place of Parliament was applauded with foot-thumping.
The decision to appeal appeared to have been taken much earlier, and quietly, as Mr Muturi said that the notice of the appeal was filed at the High Court last Friday and in the Court of Appeal on Monday.
Mr Muturi criticised the order by Justice Mwita as pre-emptive as the finance committee had not made a decision on the petition.
He said that whereas Justice Mwita set the case by Okiya Omtatah for hearing on April 10, “nobody knows whether the hearing will proceed on that day and what other orders the Court may issue then.”
Mr Muturi described the auditor-general as parliament’s “utmost and foremost servant”.
“The auditor-general is bestowed with the greatest amount of interaction with the House in the performance of its oversight role,” he added.