The quest for devolving the Political Parties Dispute Tribunal (PPDT) to the counties to increase access to political justice has gained momentum after a Jubilee Party official moved to court to have the institution’s functions devolved.
Should the petition succeed, members of various political parties across the country could find the opportunity to locally file disputes arising from political parties without necessarily travelling to Nairobi, where the tribunal is headquartered.
Just like the judiciary has courts in every county to deal with disputes arising from the community, Patrick Kabundu and Mutuma Caleb, who have filed the case, want PPDT devolved to the counties so that parties can easily access it.
The petition, filed before Justice Anthony Murima, seeks to, among other things, compel the National Assembly and the Senate to formulate legislation with the aim of amending or reviewing the principal Political Parties Act 2011, Section 40 (2), to include devolution of internal dispute resolution mechanism process to party branches in compliance with Article 48, 38 and 159 of the constitution.
“The petitioners pray that the court directs the office of the Chief Justice to issue a Gazette notice devolving the jurisdiction of the political party tribunal to courts of equal status in compliance with the law.”
Mr Kabundu and Mr Caleb say that despite major political parties in the country having branches in at least 24 counties as provided for under the Political Parties Act 2011, the process of internal dispute resolution mechanism is only handled by national offices of the political parties.
The petitioners note that political party primaries are marred by many irregularities, some of which amount to infringement on political rights but the victims of such violations are mostly locked out due to the challenges involved in following up the matter with the national offices.
“However, the issue arises from implementation of Article 48 of the constitution on the right to access justice whereby the irregularities that arise can only be addressed at the national office of political parties in Nairobi despite the fact that political parties have membership from all corners of the country,” says Mr Kabundu.
Article 48 of the constitution states that the State shall ensure access to justice for all persons and, if any fee is required, it shall be reasonable and shall not impede access to justice. But the petitioner claims that by keeping PPDT in Nairobi, the provision of the section of the law has been violated.
Mr Kabundu says that devolution, access to services and justice, among others, are critical pillars of the constitution architecture and, therefore, anything to the contrary should be opposed and rectified.
“It is our submission that the court should compel Parliament to enact a provision of law providing for devolution of internal dispute resolution mechanism by political parties to their county offices to ensure compliance with the law,” says the petitioner.
Currently, the PPDT exists only in Nairobi’s Milimani Law Courts, as noted in the stakeholders' evaluation report on the performance of the political parties tribunal in the 2017 party nominations.
“Locating the tribunal within the reach of citizens, ensuring availability of rules and procedures governing its operations and affordable cost of filing cases, among others, are central in realising accessibility of the tribunal,” says Mr Kabundu.
The petitioners also want the court to order the Auditor-General to audit the political parties account, which he claims has not been audited since 2018, and issue a report on the same.
Also, the petitioners want the court to direct Parliament and the Senate to amend Section 25 of the Political Parties Act, 2011 , number 11 of 2011, to provide for a formula for devolving of the Political Parties Fund in line with the spirit and letter of Constitution 2010, with a view to promoting democracy, social justice and the rule of law.
The court has directed the parties to file and serve their submissions within 21 days.
The case comes up for hearing on March 24.