The Supreme Court has warned President Uhuru Kenyatta and National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga to stop commenting on the presidential election petition before them in public.
The warning came against the backdrop of increased public discussion on the petition, with both National Super Alliance (NASA) and Jubilee Party politicians taking sides on the merits of the petition before it is heard by the judges. The judges will have none of this.
“The court is fully seized of the petition and as such Mr Odinga and his co-petitioner Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Kenyatta and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission including their agents, advisers or supporters are advised to stop prosecuting the case in public,” they said.
The judges tasked lawyers representing various parties to advise their clients on the consequences of their public utterances touching on the case which, they warned, undermined the court’s authority.
The directive was made by Chief Justice David Maraga, Deputy CJ Philomena Mwilu, and Judges Jackton Ojwang, Mohammed Ibrahim, Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndung’u and Isaac Lenaola after a meeting on Tuesday to discuss how to handle the petition.
They also warned the public against profiling individual judges in a manner likely to paint them as having taken sides in the dispute.
“The Supreme Court stands together with the people of Kenya in recognising the importance of arriving at a properly considered determination of the petition. Success of that crucial task comes with public responsibility,” said the judges.
The judges said although the media and the public have a constitutional right to freedom of expression, they should do so responsibly by being fair and impartial when discussing the petition.
The judges however assured Kenyans that they were ready and well prepared to hear the petition challenging Mr Kenyatta’s re-election on August 8.
“We are aware that the petition has elicited immense public interest and generated media coverage and commentary. The court is ready and prepared to hear and determine the petition on the basis of the constitution, the applicable law and the evidence,” said the judges.
Any person going against the judges’ order to stop public debate on the case could face charges of contempt of court with a jail term of up to six months if found guilty.
During a similar presidential petition at the Supreme Court in 2013, former Law Society of Kenya president Eric Mutua was cited for contempt of court for publicly commenting on the case.
This was the first time the judges were meeting on the petition since it was filed on Friday.
Both IEBC and Uhuru’s legal teams have until midnight today to file their responses and affidavits in court.