Parliament, Attorney General clash on lawyers Bill tweak


Attorney General Paul Kihara Kariuki. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

Parliament has clashed with Attorney General Paul Kihara over a request by the Justice and Legal Affairs to withdraw the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to accommodate more changes.

The changes to the Kenya School of Law (amendment) Bill and the Council for Legal Education (amendment) Bill, which the AG wants to be included in the Bill if adopted by the House would allow Rwanda and Burundian lawyers to practice in the country.

The fate of Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2021) now hangs in balance after House Speaker Justin Muturi rejected a request by the Legal Committee to include the amendments the Attorney General had sought.

Tanzania and Uganda lawyers are allowed to practice law in Kenya under provisions of sections 12 and 13 of the Advocates Act.

Parliament through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Act, 2012, changed Section 12 and 13 of the Advocates Act to include Rwanda and Burundi but the Court of Appeal in 2019 struck down the changes effectively locking out the two countries.

Legal Committee chairman Muturi Kigano had written to the Speaker seeking to withdraw the Bill so that more amendments proposed by Mr Kihara and other stakeholders can be incorporated before the Bill is debated.

In his letter to the speaker, Mr Kigano wants the bill withdrawn so as to accommodate an amendment to the Advocates Act, Cap 16, to allow Admission of Law Practitioners from the Republics of Rwanda and Burundi to the Roll of Advocates in Kenya.

The amendment was made through George Njenga Mwaniki and 12 others through Public Petition No. 20 of 2021

“That the matter being addressed falls within the doctrine of reciprocity among the community of nations, in this case being the member states of the East African Community,” reads Kigano’s letter to the speaker.

The Attorney General had during its consideration of the Petition, submitted that it was in the process of formulating two bills, namely, the Kenya School of Law (amendment) Bill and the Council for Legal Education (Amendment) Bill that would, among others, address the concerns of the Petitioners.

However, Mr Muturi noted that to withdraw a bill in favour of proposals being developed by the Attorney General would be tantamount to an abdication of the duty of parliament to legislate.

“Perhaps the Committee was not alive to the express provisions of Article 94(5) of the constitution, which states that no person or body, other than Parliament, has the power to make provisions having the force of law in Kenya except under authority conferred by this constitution or by legislation.” Speaker Muturi said.

“Any reasonable person would therefore read mischief in the attempt by the committee to seek withdrawal of the Bill citing reasons already considered in the said Report,” added the speaker.

Mr Muturi noted that the prayers being sought are within the authority of parliament, being the arm of government with the exclusive power to legislate hence the withdrawal of the Bill from the House is prejudicial.

The speaker wondered why the committee wants to withdraw the bill to include the views of more stakeholders yet in its report it indicated that it had taken into account the submissions received from stakeholders, including that of the Attorney General.

Mr Muturi has now given the committee until December 20 to communicate to his office on whether it will continue with the withdrawal of the bill or it will move it for second reading.

In the event that the committee refuses to move the bill, the speaker said any other member outside the committee would be free to sponsor and it shall be republished at the earliest opportunity and introduced into the House for consideration.

Mr Kigano yesterday told the Nation that the committee will not move the bill until all the amendments are factored in.

“It is a decision by the committee that we will not move it. All we want is that all amendments to be considered wholesomely instead of bringing piecemeal amendments, if any other member wants to move it then it’s okay,” Mr Kigano said.

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