Supreme Court declines to review contempt case against EABL bosses


EABL chief executive Jane Karuku. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to review a decision directing officials of East African Breweries Ltd, including chief executive Jane Karuku, to appear before the High Court for contempt of court hearing in a long-running battle with Bia Tosha.

A bench of five judges of the top court rejected the application sought by EABL officials saying allegations of nondisclosure, concealment and misrepresentation of facts is best dealt with by the High Court, as directed by the court in February.

Ms Karuku together with Mr Andrew Kilonzo, managing director of Uganda Breweries Ltd, wanted the apex court to review the decision issued on February 17, saying the court condemned them unheard.

Also named in the case of former director Andrew Cowan.

But Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu and Justices Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndung’u, Isaac Lenaola and William Ouko it has not been demonstrated that the ruling was obtained by fraud or deceit, is a nullity, or that the court was misled into giving its ruling.

“We left it to the High Court, to, not only establish what the status quo was but also punish for contempt, and expect the same to be purged before the contemnors could be allowed the audience, in the event that the High Court was satisfied with the nature and extent of the contempt,” said the judges.

The judges reiterated that in the judgment, they were emphatic that the place of contempt proceedings in the administration of justice cannot be downplayed.

“It is on this basis that we remitted the matter back to the High Court which is seized of the issue to contemporaneously address the contempt application on merit, in view of our findings on contempt,” the judges ruled.

Several distributors had also joined the case, arguing that the court failed to take into account that the distribution agreements of February 2006 between Bia Tosha and KBL did not confer exclusive control to Bia Tosha to distribute and sell the products in the contested routes.

The court, however, struck out the case by Cogno Ventures Limited, Four Winds Trading Company Ltd and Kamahuha Limited, among others.

The long-running dispute emanates from commercial agreements between Bia Tosha Distributors Limited and Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) and UDV (Kenya) Ltd, concerning the distribution of KBL’s products.

KBL sought to repossess some of the distribution territories previously granted to Bia Tosha and declined to refund goodwill paid by Bia Tosha, on the ground that the amounts were non-refundable.

KBL further appointed other distributors to that distribution territory.

The court in February allowed Bia Tosha’s appeal and referred the matter back to the High Court for a hearing of contempt of court proceedings.

EABL officials had sought a review arguing that Bia Tosha failed to disclose some facts to the court and that the officials were not served with contempt applications filed at the High Court and Court of Appeal.

Bia Tosha opposed the cases saying the judgment was plainly clear that it convicted the KBL and UDV parties for disobeying the Court of Appeal status quo order issued on August 11, 2016.

The beer maker had last month convinced the High Court to suspend the hearing of the contempt application, pending the determination of the review at the Supreme Court.

The distributor wants the officials jailed for six months, for allegedly disobeying court orders in a long-running court battle. The former EABL distributor has also sought to be paid damages.

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