Coronavirus: Omtatah sues State over forced quarantine

A view of the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) in Meru County, where 57 people were forced to quarantine on April 22, 2020 for breaking rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Mr Omtatah argues that Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe exceeded his powers to make regulations under the Public Health Act by purporting to create criminal offenses and penalties as this is Parliament’s role.
  • In his suit against the Health CS and the Attorney-General, he further accuses the government of failing to define the disease in the disputed rules yet it is new.

Activist Okiya Omtatah has filed a law suit challenging the manner in which some of the government's measures against the coronavirus pandemic were formulated and are being implemented.

Mr Omtatah is specifically challenging sections of the Public Health Act, namely the Prevention, control and suppression of Covid19 rules 2020, the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Order, 2020 and the Covid-19 Restriction of Movement of Persons and Related Measures Rules, 2020.

The activist is challenging the government’s decision to force people into quarantine for public health protection without obtaining an order from a magistrate’s court as required by law.

He is also opposed to the fact that those quarantined have to pay for their stay in places which are not of their choice, the arbitrary extension of the period as well as failure to protect those affected from being infected.

KAGWE'S POWERS

Mr Omtatah argues that Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe exceeded his powers to make regulations under the Public Health Act by purporting to create criminal offenses and penalties as this is Parliament’s role.

He also notes that the Public Health Act requires the State to foot the bills of those forced to quarantine for public health protection and that some people have been subjected to an extended stay in the facilities.

“It is my case that the state of affairs constitutes a gross violation of the Constitution and therefore it is invalid hence the court is enjoined to intervene,” he says in court documents.

"The threats and violations of the Constitution arise from the government’s irregular and unlawful enactment of laws that border on fascism.”

DISEASE DEFINITION

In his suit against the Health CS and the Attorney-General, he further accuses the government of failing to define the disease in the disputed rules yet it is new.

Mr Omtatah also faults the government the government for failing to take into account public participation yet it embarked on doing so in the recent Public Finance Management (Emergency Response Fund) draft regulations.

“I firmly believe strictly adherence to these principles in dealing with and seeking to combat the spread of the coronavirus is indeed a matter of life or death, the very reason why they are part and parcel of Kenya’s national values as well as principles of governance,” he says.

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